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Q&A: Santa tells all

You could say David Troutman is one of Santa’s most dedicated helpers. He’s been portraying Ol’ St. Nick at private parties, corporate events and school visits across Western New York for more than 30 years. A graduate of Charles W. Howard Santa Claus School, Troutman knows the perfect ‘ho ho ho’ comes from the heart. And this modern Santa even has his own website:

How did you get into this line of business?

It started as a favor on Christmas Eve in 1984. I was 25 years old. But from the first time I put on the suit, I was hooked.

Tell me about your time at Santa Claus School.

Charles W. Howard Santa Clause School is a three-day program in Midland, Michigan for those interested in improving and defining their portrayals of Santa Claus. We learn how to tell a good story, what it’s like in the North Pole, the newest toys and even how to make wooden toys in the workshop. There’s also a class on sign language and singing to make sure we can communicate in many different ways.

What is the North Pole like?

Santa lives in a big castle with the elves. The toy shop is in the castle, of course. It’s not unbearably cold—we grow Christmas trees there after all. And it’s important to remember you may not always be able to see the castle. It’s on huge plates of ice, so it’s constantly moving wherever the currents take it.

What’s your favorite part about being Santa?

Seeing the looks on the faces of kids and adults. There’s a sparkle there—especially in adults. It’s like I brought them back in time and they can forget their problems for a little while. That means a lot to me.

What’s an unusual request you’ve received from a child?

A hippopotamus, just like the song. But I said, ‘There’s not enough room on the sleigh. And if we put it on the button, we’d sink through roofs. If we tied it to the side, Rudolph would pull to the right all night. But we can always do stuffed animals, though.’

What’s the most memorable thing that’s happened to you as a Santa?

The first year I put on the suit, I went straight to a family party afterwards. I walked in and gave out a hearty, ‘Merry Christmas!’ The room was full. It was my parents, aunts and uncles and they all smiled and laughed when they saw. That’s when I realized adults are all kids and that’s really the spirit of Christmas.

What’s your advice for someone trying to avoid getting a lump of coal this holiday season?

Be nice to everyone. Respect everyone. We all have different ideas of our favorite candy canes. But that’s ok, you should still always be kind to one another.

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