Santa Claus Comes to Town

Our exclusive interview with the guy in red.
Dean Vehrenkamp has been Santa’s helper for the last 16 years.

There’s only one job description that requires an appetite for unlimited cookies, the agility to slide down a chimney and a special knack for reindeer navigation. The candidate must look good in red, be free of obligations on December 24, and have an affinity for facial hair. Dean Vehrenkamp, a local Santa expert, knows all about life during the Christmas season—and beyond.

An important part of Santa’s job is hearing requests from wide-eyed (and potentially crying) children, so Vehrenkamp let us in on a few of Santa’s local stories. “One [child] wanted a devil. He said he was tired of going to church and the devil would remind him to be nice all of the time,” Vehrenkamp relays with a hearty chuckle. One very optimistic girl asked for a horse, or a black bear, whichever creature could fit in the sleigh.

A great way for Mr. Claus—er, Vehrenkamp—to review the “naughty or nice” list is to simply go shopping. “If I hear a kid having a hard time, I’ll pop my head around the aisle and the kid will stop and his jaw will drop. I just smile and walk away,” he confesses.

A good way to avoid coal? Leave M&M cookies and skim milk for Santa’s visit. Why skim? “I have to watch my figure,” he says.

Santa's Best Christmas Gift

“A lady named Blossom came to visit me with her nieces and nephews. She was 96 years old. I asked, ‘When was the last time you sat on Santa’s lap?’ Blossom said she never had. So she sat on my lap and took a picture. The next year, her nieces and nephews to visit. I asked, ‘Where’s Blossom?’ She was at a nursing home, so I went to visit her. She sat on my lap again. That made her the oldest person who’d ever sat on Santa’s lap. She passed away in the spring of 2013.”