Saylor Garza, 4, tells Santa she wants a “Baby Alive” doll for Christmas. Randy Rhue said he makes sure the real Santa gets the message about what kids want.
When he walks in the room, all eyes, young and old, are on him. But peel away the beard, the faux fur and red suit, and Randy Rhue, finance manager, emerges.
In two years of playing Santa at High Plains Harley-Davidson, Rhue said he has been photographed with and heard the wishes of more than 150 children.
Rhue talked with the CNJ about what it’s like to play Santa Claus and how the experience has impacted him and renewed his faith in Christmas.
On the costume: It is something that takes two of us to put me in. I can’t do it without my wife. There are 12 pieces. The beard and the hair are the most uncomfortable, but without them, you wouldn’t have Santa.
On playing Santa: I never in my wild dreams thought I would be Santa. It’s just something that happened, and it was a very enlightening experience. It’s a lot of fun. I love to see kids happy. I like watching the smiles on the kids’ faces.
Kids are humble, and they’ll make you humble if you listen to what they say.
What kids ask for: Not all of them want toys. They ask for love, they ask for things for other people, like their sisters and brothers, moms and dads, and grandparents.
I had a little girl tell me one time that all she wanted for Christmas was to be back with her family. Turns out her family was having a hard time, and she had been placed in a foster home.
Do children believe? Most of them do. You can see that in their eyes when you walk in the room.
I look for it because that’s one of the things that makes me want to do this — to see the reactions and the looks on their faces.
Funny moments: One of the things that was kind of humorous this last time was I had a young girl come up, and I asked her what she wanted for Christmas and she said “I just told you yesterday. Don’t you remember?”
Surprises: I’ve never had any candy stuck to me. I’ve never had anybody wet on me, but they were obviously wet when they were put on my lap. You just smile and ask for the next one; you just kind of have fun with it.
On the real Santa:
I’m just one of Santa’s helpers. Santa can’t be everywhere at once, and there’s a lot of people in the world that Santa has to visit.
On non-believers: I had a young boy that questioned me once. He said “You’re not the real Santa,” and I told him “You’re right, I’m Santa’s helper.” He kind of understood; he listened to me. He still told me what he wanted, because I assured him I would tell Santa.
On repeat visitors: I’ve never had any come and tell me that they didn’t get what they asked for, but I always tell them we will do our best.
Parents who want to know what their children asked for: Parents do ask what their kids asked for, and some of them have been surprised. One young boy just needed some new pants and some new clothes. When his mom asked, she kind of had a shocked look because she thought he was going to ask for toys.
On kids who have serious needs: The best way I deal with it is with the (charitable) organizations I belong to in town. We do toy runs and food runs through motorcycle groups and several other charity efforts. I get gratification knowing that we’ve helped. It gives you a satisfying feeling to be able to help somebody.
One of the other ways I feel I can give is by helping out Santa and talking to these kids — make a part of their life good.
On babies: I have few babies cry when they’re with me. Most of them are laughing and giggling. There are some that do on occasion and usually they’ll cry, then turn around and come to me later.
What being Santa has taught him: It goes to show that people think: all children think about is toys and being greedy. Then you see a kid come in there, and she wants something for her sister or brother or even her mom or dad. It’s kind of humbling. It shows you kids are human, too.
Christmas message to Clovis children: What kids need to remember is that Christmas is the season to celebrate Christ, and it’s about giving, it’s not always about getting.
I want everybody to have a merry Christmas and understand that Santa listens to what you say. Don’t be disappointed if you don’t get what you want, because there’ll always be something there for you.
— Compiled by CNJ Staff Writer Sharna Johnson: email@example.com