Unplugged: The saint

Secrets of a local santa
Santa Mike 006
Photo by Michael Hanlon

What is the best movie representation of you? 

That is a great question. You hope you’re brought to life by some great actors and well-written themes. If I were to answer that through the Old World, it would obviously be Miracle on 34th Street. Old World–style movies draw at the heartstrings. If you go modern day, it would have to be The Christmas Chronicles with Kurt Russel. He did a very good representation of me. It was humorous. Really good representation.

You and Mrs. Claus have been married since the beginning of time. What’s the secret to making a marriage last for millions of years? 

Well, the missus’ll tell you it’s honesty and communication between us and everyone around us. You know we deal with the elves, the reindeer, the toy shop, and of course there’s the list; you know, the naughty/nice list. We also try to focus on what we can do for others and stay positive. But I will tell you, she’s the best cook and baker in this wonderful world. Why do you think I have this belly that shakes like a bowl full of jelly? Ho ho ho ho! I admit there are some great bakers, and I should know based on all the terrific cookies I get to sample on Christmas Eve.

It seems like your branding partnership with Coca Cola has been going really well. Are there any other industries you’ve considered an official sponsorship with? 

Yes, I’ve been with Coca Cola since 1931; it’s a great relationship. There are many great companies and products out there, but my job keeps me busy year-round, so expanding my branding partnerships would be difficult without affecting the children around the world and my ability to visit with them and share the holiday joy.

I know you’re a busy man, but is there a side to Santa that the public doesn’t get to see? Or are you an open book?

I’d say I’m an open book. But I’m a public figure, and you know, year after year, the little ones get more and more curious about Santa. Their questions become more difficult to answer each year, but I try my best to answer each one while explaining the importance of sharing love and joy with their family and friends. What the public does not see is when I get sad and worry about what is happening around the world. But the missus and I always hope that people can find happiness and joy, be grateful for what they have, and pay it forward whenever possible.

What are your favorite things to do when you visit Rochester? 

Oh, there’s lots of things to do, but of course it would be visiting with children and their families at holiday events like lighting the Liberty Pole, seeing everybody at the [public] market, and the Roc Holiday Village.

Not to get too political, but have you come under fire from any environmental groups for your excessive use of coal?

Ho ho ho! Funny you should ask that. Back in the day, coal was useful in the household but wasn’t as exciting as the toys little ones would ask for. But with warnings from ecologists, global warming, and renewable resources, I’m telling kids now to stay on the nice list, or they’ll get toilet paper in their stocking. Little did I know how useful toilet paper would become during the pandemic … but it’s still not on anyone’s Christmas list.

What is the strangest experience you’ve had at a meet-and-greet? 

Nothing can surprise this old man. I would say if you can capture a young one’s imagination, you can solve the world’s problems in a day. The presents they wish for can be very imaginative. And, let’s just say … even adults can be on the naughty list.

Speaking of adults on the naughty list, where do you like to go on vacations? I think I’ve seen photos of you lounging on the beach. 

Ho ho ho, I have a very colorful shirt with different representations of me in a lounge chair on the beach swimming. But you caught me; I do enjoy the beach, a milkshake with an umbrella in it, and maybe a good book. You might even see photos on my Facebook page of me in Jamaica. But some of my best memories are when I’m camping—in cognito, of course—and a few little ones catch me on vacation. New friends everywhere! If you spot me on vacation, let it be our little secret. Just wave, and I’ll know.

Lastly, is there anything else you want to add or side projects you’d like to plug? 

When I find time, I make it important to visit one of my favorite local charities here in Rochester: C.U.R.E. Childhood Cancer Association. They have a vital role here: they provide emotional, educational, social, and financial assistance to Rochester area families of kids who have cancer or blood disorders. Look them up and see if you can help them in any way possible.

Also, the missus and I would like to wish you the best possible holiday season in 2020. We wish you joy and peace, because this season will be difficult for all of us due to pandemic restrictions. If you see me around, or even get a chance to visit, please share a wave and a smile with me.  

Categories: Explore, John Ernst, Unplugged