Wednesday, September 13, 2006


We returned from Branson on the 15th and the whirlwind just kept going. Mrs. C listened to the messages on the machine while I unloaded the car. Then we reitred for the night and she said Oh there was a message from some illustrator that had been inBraanson while we were there and he wanted to talk to me. Oh o.k.

Before we left for Branson the paper here at the North Pole had interviewed us and came by to take some photos. Well it was published while we were out of town as follows.

Belt Santa heading to Claus convention in MissouriBy STACY HASLEM Tribune Staff Writer
When children spot Santa Claus at the grocery store — out of suit in the middle of summer — they straighten up real quick.
"First they look at me like they're not real sure about this, like is that him or isn't it," said Tim Mack, a bleach-bearded Belt man who plays the part year-round. "Then I'll go up and talk to them and say, 'You know who I am, don't you?'"
With an everyday wardrobe of Christmas-flavored shirts, red Dickies pants and a belt buckle bearing the initials S.C., Mack said he magically morphed into the jolly old elf in 1998, when he first slipped into the big red suit.
Since then, he's authenticated his look and spends his days cheering up those who need a lift.
"There couldn't be a better job in the world," the 53-year-old said. "It is by far the most rewarding thing I have ever done in my life."
In addition to sipping cocoa and nibbling cookies, the Santas will attend various workshops to better themselves.
"How to deal with special needs children, how to take care of your hair and beard, storybook telling, how to promote yourself, Santa and the media, Santa's wardrobe ... we'll be covering different categories like that," Mack said.
The convention offers workshops for Mrs. Claus, too.
Dana Mack jumped on the sleigh about a year after her hubby did.
"I got a red and white flannel night gown, put an apron over it and white fur on the bottom of it," said Mack, a cook at the Montana School for the Deaf and the Blind.
However, Mack plays Mrs. Claus only during the Christmas season, and she has not gone to the hair-bleaching extremes of her naturally salt-and-peppered husband.
"I'm 45 and people put me in my 30s," the brunette said. "I was just in yesterday for a perm."
The Mrs. Claus workshops cover duties like decorating cookies and taking care of Santa. Mrs. Mack already has the latter covered, however.
"I give him lots of love and try to keep him happy, which isn't hard," she said.
But most days cookies aren't on the menu at the Mack house.
"In fact, Tim asked before we got married if I'd make cookies, and I said, 'No,'" she giggled.
Even without fresh-baked cookies, Tim Mack experiences a warm feeling several times a week through his volunteer work at Benefis Hospital.
"Basically Tim visits two to three times a week," said Kathy Yarger, manager of volunteer services at Benefis. "He just knocks on the door and pops in for a visit."
"Today there was a pediatric patient, a 90-year-old lady and 74-year-old who needed a pick-me-up," Yarger said in an interview last Thursday. "And he can pick anybody up.
"He doesn't have any hesitations or fears."
Mack also volunteered at the Montana Special Olympics Summer Games in Great Falls in May.
"That was just the most wonderful thing — those kids are special," he said. "They love Santa. They have no problems identifying me."
"I worked the last two years at a mall in San Diego," Mack said. "Real-bearded Santas make good money in bigger malls."
People also hire him for business and private parties.
"Those are the paid things I do that help me to be able to do the volunteer stuff," he said.
Being Santa Claus is dear to Mack's heart.
"When I first put the suit on, something changed inside of me — something magical happened, a metamorphosis took place," he said. "Prior to that time, I was very cold and wanted nothing to do with Christmas."
But he's found there's nothing better than having a 4- or 5-year-old kid jump up on his lap like he's the best thing ever.
Though, some folks give him the odd eye when he's making his rounds.
"I just tell them I haven't lost my mind, I just found my heart," he said.
Reach Tribune Staff Writer Stacy Haslem at 791-1490, 800-438-6600 or at

Originally published July 6, 2006

Next morning I listen to the machine and the message was from a rather well known artist here at the North Pole. So I returned his call and he told me he hasa firm deal with a publisher to illustrate a Christmas book and he would like me to model for it as Santa. We talked and made arrangements to meet for lunch later in the week.

The day of the lunch I took Mrs. Claus in with me. When the artist lets just call him Brian for now arrives and starts telling us about the story. It has an unusual twist Seems Santa is having a poor Christmas Eve and is sick, combine that with several disasters and then have an angel show up, and bring back the real meaning of Christmas and WOW this is so cool. As he is telling us the story he looks at Mrs. Claus and says he wants to use her as the model for for Mrs. Claus, he doesn't want the typical Mrs. Claus and says she will be perfect. Lunch over he will make some calls and get back to me.

So hold on for the roller coaster ride, because we have just hit the tip of the ice berg.

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