Santa Claus is something that allows us to come together. By Santa Bryan Miller

Our 2017 season started way back in July when the marketing director from Cabela’s called with an idea that he wanted to have their first ever Christmas in July event. Elf Lolli (my daughter Kayla) and I asked around and got a lot of good advice from seasoned Santa’s about what to expect and what to do differently from our regular Christmas appearances. During the event, we gave out more than 170 “I Met Santa Claus” stickers to kids that visited us, and we gave nearly 200 Miniature Candy Canes to visitors. We must have done well, because Cabela’s has already booked us for Christmas in July 2018!

The Christmas season started with a professional photo shoot with Lauren Hart Photography in Troy, OH. Lolli was performing with BGSU’s High School honor’s band, so Santa visited children alone. The photo shoot was especially nice because we had as much time as we needed with the children to get a good visit and great pictures. It was good to have time to let anxious or frightened children get comfortable with Santa, and to build some trust to overcome their fears. Lauren has already booked another day of photos for 2018 too.

Then we were able to take a trip on the CVSR Polar Express. As an extra bonus, Mrs Claus (the amazing Jacki Chamberlain) joined us on the trip! As we finished our visits with families on the train, we learned that the second car was rented out for families with children going through medical issues. Three different hospitals had kids in that car.

The season got really busy following Thanksgiving. At 2am on Black Friday, Elf Lolli and Santa, and Candy Cane the Reindeer, posed for some pictures with customers who were waiting for Cabela’s (at Polaris Parkway on the North side of Columbus) to open. We then appeared at Cabela’s and IKEA every weekend for the rest of the season. At Cabela’s, we would see as many as 300 children in just 4 hours. Some days were slower, but as we got closer to Christmas the lines grew longer.

IKEA (also at Polaris Parkway on the North side of Columbus) just opened in 2017, and this was their first Christmas season, but we had a regular flow of visitors during our shifts. One of my favorite moments of the season was taking a picture with one of IKEA’s employees. She had been raised in a Jewish household and was forbidden from celebrating Christmas or taking pictures with Santa. Even as she grew older and moved out on her own, she dreamed of getting a picture with Santa. She almost got the chance during a visit at Disney World, but she didn’t get her picture. When she came to see me, it was a very emotional moment for her. She was so excited to get her picture taken with me, a life moment for her, and an experience that I will never forget.

I have noticed that I often get to take pictures with Muslim’s, Jew’s, Buddhist’s, and people of all different ethnicities and heritages. The Christmas Season, and Santa Claus is something that allows us to come together. I don’t always get the opportunity to share about Jesus and the true reason for everything we do, but I can share a warm and friendly smile, and a brief hug or high five, spread a little love and joy to those who come to visit.

There were a few other appearances this season. A fund raiser at our local Elementary School for the Music Boosters. A home visit with a wonderful family in Ashley, OH. A Honda dealership in Wooster, OH. A roller skating rink in Johnstown, OH. An appearance at a performance of A Miracle On 34th Street in Mount Vernon, OH. And a Skype call with a family in New York City, NY.
For the 2018 Christmas Season, I have already been booked by Cabela’s, the Honda Dealership in Wooster, and the photography studio in Troy. And I’m in discussions with IKEA on scheduling dates with them again.

The Lord has blessed me beyond my hopes so early in my career as a professional Santa. I have to thank the Buckeye Santa’s, Heart of Ohio Santa’s, Tim Etienne, Doug Baird, Jacki Chamberlain, Dennis Blandon, Gary and Cathi Rank, and the many Santa’s on Facebook who share great ideas and encouragement for a new Santa who is just getting his career started.

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