Editor’s Note: This story has sensitive Santa information; if you have children reading over your shoulder, navigate away now!
All across the country, kids are sending letters to Santa. They're sitting on his lap telling him what they want. Santa is hearing those requests at the Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park.
In his suit that cost a few hundred dollars, Randy Schriever – or Santa - is putting kids up onto his lap to find out what they want for Christmas. It’s something he’s been doing for over two decades, since he was asked to dress up for his church back home in Texas.
When he moved to Glenwood to be closer to family, he wanted to work a lot less. Maybe even concentrate that in December.
He had been doing Santa for a long time, but wanted to take his Santa game to the next level. He discovered the Professional Santa Claus School in Denver, a place where people from every level of Santa experience can come to learn how to be a better St. Nick. There, they learn all different ways to improve their Santa Claus performances – ranging from appearance to jokes and interacting with difficult childhood situations.
“I felt bad for the many past years that I’d been doing Santa, because there was so much more I could have offered,” says Randy. “There’s so much more I could have done as far as the storytelling. There’s a way to get children to get involved in who you are and help them believe in the magic that’s there.”
Now, he’s a professional Santa. When he is just Randy, he’s a school bus driver. The kids he drives call him Santa too.
“I always say that anywhere from November through January, I’m the greatest thing that ever walked,” he says. “The rest of the time, when I get into the summer with the hair and the beard, I’m a weirdo!”
Through his years as a Santa, Randy has picked up lots of techniques to improve what he does as Santa. One. Don’t promise anything. Always say that you’ll see what you can do when a child asks for a gift. That way, you can avoid putting pressure on the parents to come up with some expensive tickets, for example.
Two. Instill the magic of Santa Claus and Christmas into the children that you see.
“I do a little magic trick. Everybody believes Santa’s magic,” Randy says. “I don’t want to turn it into a magic show, but I want to show them something that is very magical.”
One trick involves him putting silk cloths into a basket and making them disappear or to turn from one color to another.
Finally, always try to help the parents out in whatever way possible. One of Randy’s go-to’s is asking kids how they do in school. If they get good grades, and if they clean their rooms.
He also has a bunch of props. Glitter that becomes magic dust. Sleigh bells for all of his reindeer.
Randy isn’t flying his sleigh solo, though. His wife, Sandy comes along with him as Mrs. Claus. Her favorite thing about being Mrs. Claus is the spirit of giving that she feels.
“We just wanted to give back to the children,” says Sandy. “We didn’t have a ton of money to just go out and buy children everything they wanted or needed. Even ones that needed things.”
Sometimes, older kids don’t want to sit on Santa’s lap. They don’t want to be embarrassed in front of their parents. They are entering the stage of childhood when they become too cool for things. She tells them that it’s time to start creating memories for their parents, because their parents have been creating memories for the kids all their lives.
“It’s great,” she says. “It adds to your life, I think. It adds to mine - the happiness they know for a little bit. If they’re in troubled homes, or they don’t have money. They ask me ‘what do you get for Christmas?’ I tell them, ‘The greatest gift in the whole wide world is my family.’”
The couple is heading to the Bahamas this week to play Mr. and Mrs. Claus. They were selected out of an international pool of applicants. They have had to research all of the ways different countries celebrate Christmas and experience Santa Claus. It’s all about being confident in yourself, and knowing that the performance you’re going to give is your best effort.
“I’m not the best,” says Randy. “I know I’m not the best - probably don’t look the best. I probably don’t act the best, but don’t tell my heart that ‘cause it knows I’m the best.”