You’d better watch out

Art Stone

Photo by Jeneka Sanford

As I was strolling through the downtown mall on a recent afternoon, I came across Santa Claus (whose name is Art Stone when he’s not in his outfit) and his enchanted Christmas kingdom. It looked as if he’d just arrived from the North Pole, and although the reindeer had departed, their footprints were still fresh in the snow. I noticed that Santa and his elf were having a pretty good time and figured that maybe if I went and talked to them some of the holiday cheer would rub off on me. That’s exactly what happened. The jolly man with the white beard and the twinkle in his eye was really filled with the holiday spirit. I even got to sit on his lap. I felt 5 years old all over again.

How did you become Santa Claus?

My stepdaughter called up to see if there were any jobs because she thought I’d make a good Santa Claus. I played Santa Claus a lot of times for churches and schools and at work and office deals, but I never thought of it as doing it to get paid for it. This is great. It’s hard to believe that you can get a job that you love doing so much and get paid for it too. Because this is the kind of job you volunteer for. So anyhow that’s how I did it.

How long have you been doing this?

Since the day after Thanksgiving at this particular place, but I’ve been doing it off and on for the last 20 years, since 1980. And it’s really a lot of fun.

What do you do for the rest of the year?

The rest of the year I’m a sculptor and an artist and I work on my art. I also work part time for Alex Padilla bail bonds as a collector. I’ve worked in a lot of different industries. I’ve worked as a heavy equipment operator in the construction field, and for several local contractors in Sacramento, but for the past several years I’ve worked as a sculptor and an artist.

What are children wishing for this year?

The little girls are still asking for Barbies, X-Boxes and scooters, and Woody and what’s the other one? That’s what I’m getting the most of. The X-Box, I don’t even know what it is, but everyone wants one.

Is there anything else they’re wishing for?

Let me tell you something. A lot of them wish for things for their parents and for other kids. That’s brought tears to my eyes many times. One little girl jumped up and asked could I get her daddy back for Christmas because he was in Mississippi. Those kinds of things. And one little boy wanted money for his mom so she could buy presents. He said, “Don’t worry about the toys, I just want to give my mom some money.” These kids are not selfish. They really care about other people.

Tell me one of your favorite memories as Santa Claus.

I’ll tell you one really neat thing that happened; there was a lady who came and sat on my lap, then after a few minutes she said, “Santa, I want to tell you what I want for Christmas.” Then a guy came walking up and I asked him if he wanted to sit on my knee too because it looked like they were together. He said, “No, but I want to get down on my knee.” Then he said, “Santa, what I want for Christmas is that lady on your lap.” And then he twisted around and pulled out a great big diamond ring out of his pocket, and said to her, “Would you be my wife?” She said yes, and they walked out of here engaged.

It seems like people kind of slip right in to the magic of Christmas at that particular time when they come in here.

Any bad experiences?

I haven’t had one bad experience! The only bad experience I have is sometimes kids who come in here for the first time are crying because they are scared. But I don’t like to force kids to sit on my lap. I tell their parents that too.

Why do you do this?

Because I love kids. I love the way the children’s eyes light up. Look at that lady walking by smiling at us. You know what? I could take off my Santa outfit and I wouldn’t get that positive response from every person that walked by. Some of the kids who come up on my lap pull on my whiskers and say, “Wow, you’re the real Santa Claus!”

Thanks Santa.

Sure. Anytime. And let me tell you about one more bonus being Santa. I bet you would have never sat on my lap if I wasn’t!