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The magical tale of Santa’s suits

Community: After season’s worth of work, volunteers clean Mr. Claus’ wardrobe

Posted: December 25, 2010 10:23 p.m.
Updated: December 26, 2010 4:55 a.m.

Leah Shim folds Santa suits brought in by the Castaic Lions Club at Grace Cleaners in Castaic on Thursday.

 

Legend has it that Santa curls up by the fireplace after his long Christmas Eve journey, probably snoozing in an easy chair while Mrs. Claus prepares Christmas dinner.

More recent versions put him on the beach in Hawaii or Florida.

But what about his suit? What happens to it after 24 hours of protecting the jolly old elf while he circumnavigates the globe?

If you ask Lynda Sargent of the Castaic Lions Club where Santa’s suit is, the answer will be more prosaic than either a hot toddy at the North Pole or sun-saturated sands of warmer climes.

Santa’s suit — or at least the suits of the Santas who appear at charity events on behalf of the Lions Club — are already at Grace Cleaners in Castaic.

Actually, seven suits were delivered to Grace Cleaners this year; seven volunteers answered the call of the Lions Club to help distribute Christmas goodies to those in need and bring some happiness to the underprivileged.

The suits had seen extensive use during the annual Castaic Santa Float campaign and several other charitable events — to say nothing of Christmas Eve.

They were overdue for a washing.

Still, Sargent tells a tale of the suits’ near-magical power to transform — somewhat reminiscent of Frosty the Snowman’s old silk hat.

“Santa has to realize that the minute he puts the Santa costume on, he becomes Santa,” Sargent said. “He is referred to as Santa, and he has to maintain the image until the suit comes off,” she said.

“He has to be patient, love children and always be happy on the job.”

Such a man is Bill Kimble, who’s been volunteering for the Castaic Lions Club as Mr. Claus for about 20 years.

Kimble said he enjoyed every chance to be Santa this year, but his favorite was the Plum Canyon Elementary School event in late November, when Navy Cmdr. Wes Demory popped out of a gift box during a flag ceremony to surprise his 7-year-old son Reece.

Demory had spent the past year overseas away from his family.

“All the events were fun, but that one was really special,” Kimble said.

Kimble also participated in the Castaic Lions Club’s main Christmas event, the Castaic Lions Santa Float.

The 20-foot-long float travels through Castaic neighborhoods for nine nights. Santa greets children and collects donated food to be passed to seniors and needy families in the area.

This year, more than 100 volunteers acted as Santa’s helpers. More than 4,000 pounds of canned and boxed food were gathered during the campaign.

Before Santa’s truck reaches the neighborhood, a cart with Christmas music alerts residents that Santa is on his way.

“Little kids are always so excited about Santa,” Sargent said. Each child sits with Santa, passes a letter with special wishes to him and receives a candy cane.

This year, Lions Club Santas passed out 2,700 candy canes.

That’s a lot of sticky stuff.

At the cleaners, the Santa suits are spot-cleaned, steamed and run through the standard machinery.

Then they’re picked up by a Lions Club volunteer and placed in storage. They will invoke their magical qualities again in 11 months.

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