Each month, our Featured Member section profiles a ClausNet member. Members are chosen totally at random by me and the staff. Once selected as Featured Member of the Month, we interview the candidate and post the interview here. This is a wonderful way to get to know your fellow ClausNet members!
We are happy to announce our ClausNet Featured Member for February 2020 is Santa Bill III!
Santa Bill III
Featured ClausNet Member – February 2020
Profile: Santa Bill III
Real Name: Bill
Location: Lititz, Pennsylvnia USA
ClausNet member since: September 18, 2019
Community Reputation (as of today): 323 – Awesome!
This month's Feature Member joined the ClausNet Community back in September 2019. Santa Bill III has been donning the red suit for the past 12 years and he gets to work in a castle! We caught up with Santa Bill a few days ago, and here is what he had to say...
ClausNet: How long have you been portraying Santa Claus and how did you get started?
Bill: "I have been dressing in the Red for 12 years. I work for a regional grocery chain. In December we would have what they call a Holiday Fest at each store. I was the assistant store manager at a smaller store that had it’s own suit (not a very good suit). After some coaxing by the store manager, I tried on the suit and it fit."
"We held our Fest and urged customers to take picture of their children with Santa. I had one little boy that saw me in my chair, he came running up and gave me a big hug and a picture he had drawn with himself and Santa. That is all it took. I was hooked. After the Christmas season, I went to a Party City store and bought one of their better suits (not a very good one, but I didn’t know that at the time). Each year I would use it for the Fest at the store I was at and also walk around on Christmas Eve morning greeting children, handing out candy canes and having picture taken with them. Four years ago, I was on the computer and saw an ad from Get the Picture Corp (they take ride photos at some amusement parks and other venues) for a Santa position at Dutch Wonderland (a Children’s Amusement Park in Lancaster Pennsylvania). I sent in my resume, on the cover letter I put that I have a white beard and do not need stuffing."
"The next day I got a phone call and did a phone interview and was asked to have a face to face meeting the next week. After the face to face I was hired the next week. The park is open on Saturdays and Sundays for their Winter Dutch Wonderland, so I was able to fit it in with my with work schedule. I have such a great time, that I feel guilty getting paid to do it. The next year I purchased a good quality suit for my own use. This past year, I had just picked up my suit on a Tuesday in October and then on Friday evening my Mrs. and I were in a vehicle accident that put us in the hospital for two weeks for our injuries with which we are still recovering (working hard to go back to work in the near future). Needless to say, I had to miss this past season in the the Red Suit. I did put it on to take some pictures with one of my daughter’s students and her brother and sister (all high school students), they gave the picture to their mother for a Christmas present, she cried when they gave it to her."
ClausNet: What or who are your influences on your portrayal of Santa Claus?
Bill: "My biggest influences are the children, I just want to strive to be there for them and bring the joy of Christmas to them."
ClausNet: What do you enjoy most about being Santa Claus?
Bill: "Receiving the unconditional love from children. I find it a true expression of Grace."
ClausNet: What do you enjoy the LEAST about being Santa Claus?
Bill: "Not being able to get every child to come up to me for a picture. The ones that are afraid, I try to have fun with them to get them to relax around me. It works about 80% of the time, then I offer a candy cane and tell them that photographer wants to take a picture of the candy cane with them holding it. That normally brings it up to about 95%. The other 5%, I would give mom or dad a candy cane to pass on to the child and most times I would get a wave as they were leaving."
ClausNet: What is your most memorable visit?
Bill: "That is a tough question. I would have to say on Christmas Day of 2017 is my most memorable. Our family gets together on Christmas Day in the afternoon or evening, we eat and exchange gifts. My son wanted to have it at his house that year. He and his wife wanted to invite her family for the meal too. I asked them if they wanted me to bring my suit to have some fun with her parents, the plan was I would come in with my suit on and tell them that I had found some small gifts under the sleigh seat when I was cleaning up from my ride the night before that had their names on and brought it for them. My son said yes that would be fun, but don’t bring the presents, he would take care of that."
"So that day we ate our meal with both families. As we were sitting around the table talking during dessert. I snuck away to the basement, put on the Red and went around to the back door with a bag of presents. I made my entrance, everyone came and sat in the living room. I pulled out a present read the name that was on it and handed it out. There was a present for mom’s, dad, grandmas, grandpa, sisters, brothers and nephew on both sides of the families."
"After they were handed out, my son said there was one that must have fallen out. It was for Santa. We all opened them at the same time. Each package had a photo in with the picture of my son, his wife and the recipient of the gift. On the front it said the first picture of (whatever was the theme of the picture) and on the back was Grandma, Grandpa, Aunt, Uncle, Cousin and June of 2017. My daughter in law family and some of our family for it right away. It okay me a little longer. Mine had Grandpa on it (I didn’t think much about it, I already had a grandson), then everyone said read the back, about a minute later it hit me. THEY WERE HAVING A BABY! We didn’t think they were going to have children."
ClausNet: Do you have a favorite gig?
Bill: "I would have to say Dutch Winter Wonderland. It is so much fun. We have the regular sessions, on Saturdays, one hour before the park opens they have cookies with Santa. On Sundays, for two hours before the park opens they have Quiet Time with Santa. It is fifteen minute time slots that parents of special needs children sign up for, so the little ones don’t or who can’t wait in a line to see Santa have an opportunity to do so. After their visit with Santa they are invited to take a train ride around the park, just with their family."
ClausNet: What is your dream gig?
Bill: "I would have to say that I am doing it at Dutch Winter Wonderland."
ClausNet: What keeps you busy when you are not being Santa?
Bill: "Normally (not counting this past year) I work for a regional grocery chain. I have been there for 44 years, as I am getting closer retirement (still a years away) I have stepped down in responsibilities and run the dairy department (I work 40 hours and can go home and not worry about the store)."
ClausNet: What are your hobbies / interests?
Bill: "Church and I am involved with the Boy Scouts. I was the Scoutmaster of our Troop for many years. Last year I stepped down to help set up a Troop for girls that is linked with our boy Troop and coordinate the two units."
ClausNet: What is your favorite color?
Bill: "Red of course. Is there any other color."
ClausNet: What is your favorite food?
Bill: "My favorite is pasta and chicken."
ClausNet: Coke or Pepsi?
Bill: "That is a tough one too. I lean more toward Coke."
ClausNet: What is your favorite cookie?
Bill: "Oatmeal Raisin or any other fresh cookies."
ClausNet: What is your favorite movie?
Bill: "My all time favorite is BIG with Tom Hanks."
ClausNet: Do you have a favorite Christmas movie?
Bill: "Each year I make sure my Mrs. and I watch National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation."
ClausNet: What is your favorite Christmas song?
Bill: "Christmas Canon by Trans-Siberian."
ClausNet: What was the last book that you read?
Bill: "Boys in the Boat."
ClausNet: What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
Bill: "I have always wanted to try retirement and do some community volunteering."
ClausNet: What profession would you not like to attempt?
Bill: "Marathon Runner."
ClausNet: What were some of your favorite toys as a child?
Bill: "Hot Wheel, Erector Set and building things."
ClausNet: What is your most memorable experience of Santa while growing up?
Bill: "I am the youngest in my family of five. I am nine years behind the sister before me (my name was Oops). So growing up some of my siblings were married and had family of their own. My parents would have our Christmas on Christmas Eve, so the families could spend Christmas in their own homes. When I was little, they would have me take a bath in the early evening. By the time I was done and came downstairs, there would be presents under our Christmas tree. Santa had come when I was in the tub. I missed him!"
"The next year the same thing. I MISSED HIM AGAIN!!! The next year I was not going to take the bath, so I would not miss him. That year I was old enough to help, put presents under the tree. The past few years I wanted to get my picture with Santa with my family. Needles to say I kept missing him. The picture would have my Mrs., my son, my daughters, spouses my grandsons and SANTA, never me in it (I MISSED HIM AGAIN!!!). This year, because of the accident, I was able to get my picture with."
ClausNet: What is the hardest question you have gotten as Santa Claus and what was your response?
Bill: "It was not a question, but a comment by a mother in the background. I asked the child what he wanted for Christmas? Before he answered, his mother standing in the back, whispered “He celebrates Hanukah”. This caught me off guard. After some quick thinking, I replied “What would you like for Hanukah?”. Everything worked out fine."
ClausNet: What is the strangest request you have gotten as Santa Claus?
Bill: "The strangest was in one evening I had three children ask for Polaroid cameras and film (I didn’t think they knew what film let alone Polaroids were, this is a digital generation)."
ClausNet: How did you find ClausNet?
Bill: "This past September, I attend the Santa Gathering at Willow Valley near Lancaster. Someone in one of the seminars said it was a great place to get information and learn."
ClausNet: And what do you like most about ClausNet?
Bill: "Everyone is willing to help each other to become the best in our craft of portraying Santa, Mrs. Claus, Elves, etc. ClausNet offers so much advice and ideas to allow us to bring more joy to children that we touch in or lives!"
ClausNet: Is there a Santa or Mrs. Claus over the years that you admire or has inspired you? Can you tell us a little bit about him/her?
Bill: "Santa Bill Neely is one I admire. I have been doing Winter Dutch Wonderland and had heard of an man that works in customer service during the regular Dutch Wonderland season that looks like Santa. This past year I had season passes and finally got to meet the the other guy that looks like Santa at the park. We were there with our grandson walking through the park and my Mrs. said “There he is”. My response was “Who?”, she said “The other Santa”. So I went up to him and introduced my self as the Winter Santa. He was wearing his park uniform (park polo shirt and beige shorts), but he also had candy cane socks, Santa style baseball cap, full bushy beard (I had mine and my head shaved in the spring to raise money for childhood cancer) and a warm smile. He would talk to the children and give them his 1,000,000 Christmas Wish card (looks like a $1,000,000 bill). A very nice man and great with children."
ClausNet: What advice can you give to a first time Santa or Mrs. Claus?
Bill: "While portraying Santa, Mrs. Claus or Elves be sincere, look the children in the eye, show interest in what they talk about and most of all HAVE FUN with it. If you are having fun the children will too. You will get more out of it than the children do."
ClausNet: Anything else you would like to add?
Bill: "Thank you for this great honor. There are many deserving other than myself. Thank you to Michael Rielly and the others that keep ClausNet running."
"Also a thank you to the ClausNet members, without you this would not be the terrific site it is. By offering advice without expecting anything in return is so refreshing. Many people don’t want to help out unless they get something in return, be it monitory, something in trade or some physical thing. Offering advice, you know that you are helping someone to bring joy to sooooo many children, what a better return could you ask for. Again thank you for allowing me to be part of this community!"
Thank you Bill! Everyone, please join me in congratulating Santa Bill III, our ClausNet Featured Member of the Month for February 2020!