Wednesday, December 7, 2005

Santa Claus makes early visit for Bellevue confab

More appearances planned in Ketchum and Sun Valley

Express Staff Writer

Ketchum's very own Santa Claus is making plans for this Christmas season, and already a number of sightings of Santa have been reported around the valley. Photo by Willy Cook

Of course everyone knows Santa Claus is busy this time of year. Beyond his regular duties bringing toys to girls and boys, though, Santa also makes a number of appearances spreading holiday cheer to all during the Christmas season.

On Monday, Santa arrived at the Full Moon restaurant in Bellevue disguised in street clothes to mask his true identity. Gathered there to hear him speak were members of the Blaine Manor Auxiliary, a group of local women who raise funds for the Blaine Manor nursing home in Hailey.

Although some residents of the Wood River Valley may not know it, Santa is actually a full-time Ketchum resident and has been for many years. (He prefers to keep his real name a mystery.)

Before Christmas, Ketchum's very own Santa Claus will make the following public appearances in Ketchum and Sun Valley:

· Old Fashioned Christmas Tree Lighting at Forest Service Park in Ketchum, Thursday, Dec. 8, at 5:30 p.m. All are welcome.

· Sun Valley's Lumiere Festival, a Christmas tree and village lighting at the Sun Valley Inn, Saturday, Dec. 17, at 6 p.m. All are welcome.

· Sun Valley "Christmas on Ice," at the Sun Valley Ice Rink, next to the Sun Valley Lodge, Saturday, Dec. 24, at 5:30 p.m. All are welcome.

On Monday, Santa, or Saint Nicholas as he's otherwise known, had lunch with the members of the Blaine Manor Auxiliary before speaking with them about the Christmas season. Much of what Santa said was focused on how today's children view him.

Many of today's children still believe in Santa, he said. "They want to believe," he said.

"If you feel Santa's real, doesn't that make it so?" he said. Even in street clothes, children throughout the year recognize him for who he is, Santa said. "The kids see me in summer and they say, 'There's Santa.'"

Santa said he's begun to limit his official pre-Christmas duties in recent years. Juggling all of his appearances requires a lot of time and energy, he said.

"With time the old boy kind of gets put out to pasture," Santa said with a smile. Other Santas-in-training have begun to step up and are already making appearances throughout the valley, he said.

"It's the way it should be," Santa said.

Santa said he's not yet ready to turn over all of his duties to the next generation of Santas, though. These days, he said he's having more fun than ever as his Santa routine is perfected.

No more does he use a fake belly and beard, Santa said.

"I get better every year," Santa said. "I'm allowed to be more whimsical."

Betty Murphy, president of the Blaine Manor Auxiliary, said the reason local children believe in Santa as long as they do has to do with his longevity. Murphy said having the same Santa for the past 25 years has helped them believe in Santa much longer than other children do.

"The kids in Ketchum believe longer because we see only one Santa Claus," Murphy said.

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