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Published December 19, 2010, 12:00 AM

A Santa for every holiday occasion

Man has donned red suit for 30+ years
Dave Sandbeck tells himself every year that he should stop his Christmas tradition.

By: Wendy Reuer, INFORUM

Dave Sandbeck tells himself every year that he should stop his Christmas tradition.

But, like every year before, he can’t disappoint the little girls and boys that have been good. So he dusts off one of the four jolly red suits he owns, pulls on his boots, tightens his belt and adjusts his beard before heading out the door.

For more than 30 years, Sandbeck has been Santa, attending Christmas parties, businesses and family gatherings to spread the Christmas cheer and hear what’s on each Christmas list from kids ages 9 to 90.

Sandbeck got his start as a “rent-a-Santa” in 1979 when a friend decided to dress up as Santa and make appearances for a small fee.

Sandbeck helped his friend the first year, making costume adjustments and scheduling appointments. By the next year, his friend bowed out, and Sandbeck took over.

Sandbeck said he’s been all over town and back again since then, showing his smiling face to children and adults. He said no one is too old for Santa.

“Adults need Santa, too,” Sandbeck said. “They just enjoy Christmas in a different way than the kids. The kids’ enjoyment is more pure, innocent. They still believe in the myth.”

Santa even once joined a fitness class. He appeared in costume among a group of women working out.

“So here comes Santa, jolly as ever,” Sandbeck said. “I just took my place along with all of them and started doing the excises.”

Class members at first just stared in confusion, but then they got curious, almost pushy, wanting his real identity, Sandbeck said.

“I never did tell them,” Sandbeck said with a chuckle. “I’m Santa – that’s what matters.”

Although he started padding his costume with pillows, Sandbeck said that now at age 59, he doesn’t need them.

Business has fluctuated over the years, but several regular clients still receive visits. Sandbeck once had to hire about four Santas to help with appearances, especially on Christmas Eve, his busiest night of the year.

Sandbeck and one other “helper” now take on the calls.

Sandbeck delivers presents, which are usually bought by his clients and well-hidden in a place he can access before making his appearance.

He is also always sure to have a handful of Christmas nuggets for all the kiddos. Santa gets his share of gifts back. Sandbeck said he has taken home plenty of candy, letters, lists and cookies.

Sandbeck said most kids ask about his sleigh, which he answers with ready-made explanations, saying the sleigh and reindeer are on the roof or somewhere else out of sight.

“You never say it’s parked anywhere,” he said. “Cars park. Sleighs are never parked.”

For those who try to analyze Santa and how realistic his annual trips are, he has an answer ready: “elfin magic.”

“That answer surprisingly works quite a bit,” Sandbeck said.

Although the faces are different every year, it’s the ones that still believe in Santa’s magic that keep Sandbeck returning each year.

“When they’re at that certain age when they still believe, that’s when it’s the most fun,” he said.

More information

  • To rent a Santa, call (701) 237-6297.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Wendy Reuer at (701) 241-5530