Bob and Jean Green have been playing Santa and Mrs. Claus for 25 years, but now they’re ready to “retire” and are looking for someone to take the reins of the sleigh. Here, Bob recounts just how he and Jean became involved in this tradition.
“The interest in working with small children started back in 1975 with the birth of our son that year. I was a member of the Foothills City Kinsmen Club at the time, and one of the projects for our service club was to support the Calgary Children’s Hospital.
“In 1976, one of the Kinsmen Club projects was to work with Bob McGrath of Sesame Street fame when he was attending the Children’s Hospital in Calgary on a fundraising tour. He was looking for someone to wear the Big Bird costume and attend with him at the hospital. I got that role, and that was the start.
“I played the Santa role at a number of children’s Christmas events for the next 5 or 6 years at mostly Kinsmen Christmas parties in Calgary. I used a borrowed or rented costume. Transferring to Edmonton in 1983, the role somehow seemed to continue even though our son was now beyond the age of needing a visit from Santa. For a couple of years, I played the role at the Sherwood Park Mall, which at the time was the only mall in Sherwood Park. That was an interesting time as Santa arrived at the mall on a fire truck. In about 1986, I seemed to be able to retire from the role, that was until we moved to Carstairs in 1996.
“I had joined the Lions Club in Carstairs, and they were very involved in community events at the time. They were putting on a Christmas party one year and were looking for someone to play Santa. There was a local businessman who had played the role for a number of years, and had a suit, but had retired. I called him and asked if the club could borrow the suit, and he said “yes, in fact you can have it.” That is how I got the urge again to play the role.
“We had set up our small local business in 2002, and I became involved with the Chamber of Commerce in town. They were looking to try and set up a winter carnival or something similar in town. The idea of Carstairs Crazy Christmas eventually came up, and Santa would be playing a major part in this event. As I already had the suit, I naturally volunteered.
“The first few years, much of the event was held in the Memorial Park area and the gazebo was used as a place for Santa to sit, and the kids to come and visit. It did get a little cold during some of those times. The event was eventually moved to the 10th Avenue venue to encourage people to shop in the stores, and wagon rides were added. Santa was moved into the Coop store, and by that time, Mrs. Claus also had gotten herself an outfit to wear and became part of the package.
“It had become local knowledge of who was playing the Santa and Mrs. Claus role, and many of the other local organizations who had children’s Christmas parties were looking for someone to play Santa. Some of these organizations were the Carstairs Fire Department, the Carstairs pre-school group, the Carstairs Parent Link, as well as a few commercial businesses. Putting the suit on 6 or 7 times during December became quite common between about 1997 and 2018. There were even a few trips to out-of-town parties.
“It has been a great time of enjoyment for both of us, but we now feel it is time to pass the torch to the next person, so we are actively seeking someone to take over this enjoyable job.”