Ed Taylor has a Friday Zoom call with other Santas at his home in Central Point. [Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune]
Santas checks in with Ed Taylor during a Zoom call on Friday. [Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune]
Southern Oregon’s very own Santa Claus, who lives under the alias “Central Point Resident Ed Taylor” (wink, wink), faces a holiday destination worse than an excessively long list of mischief or a shortage of Christmas cookies. sugar.
Santa needs help during the days leading up to Christmas to handle all the events where the jolly elf is needed. But the supply of Santas has been running low, so Taylor is on a mission to swell the ranks in time to give the holiday cheer a chance at survival.
While he doesn’t pretend to be the “real Santa,” Taylor is probably one of the closest contenders for real Santa vibes with his red suspenders and surprisingly authentic Santa smile.
Taylor runs her own organization that mentors and supports some 4,800 Santas, Mrs. Clauses, and Santa Helpers. (One would find it hard to believe that he had no connections at the North Pole, so it’s best to err on the side of good behavior.)
Taylor, who has appeared in a host of Hollywood movies and at large-scale Christmas parties around the country, began playing Santa about 15 years ago.
While the pandemic affected every other aspect of life, Taylor said, Santa Claus actors were an especially vulnerable group, an older population, generally more “joyful” in stature, and the number of Santas had already slowly dwindled before. of the pandemic.
COVID-19 was like a nail in the coffin, forcing retirement in some cases, worse in others. Even Taylor admits that he goes “mostly virtual” during the COVID-19 restrictions, spreading holiday cheer via Zoom sessions.
“Most people don’t think about any of this, really, but we had already figured it out, probably even a little bit before the pandemic hit. Before 2018 and 2019, there seemed to be a lot more demand for Santa to make appearances than ever before, plus there were fewer Santas to go around,” he said.
“Now the demand is increasing even more and we desperately need to recruit more Santas.”
Taylor said a big chunk of the pre-holiday bookings for Santa started pouring in in early September.
“About 85% of requests for Santa Claus occur in November; We haven’t even gotten there yet and we can’t fulfill the requests that we have,” Taylor said worriedly.
Confirming Taylor’s suspicion, an online site called HireSanta.com said demand for Santa Claus appearances had increased 120% compared to pre-pandemic rates. In contrast, the supply of Santas has decreased, by some accounts, by around 20%, with several Santas retired or deceased during the pandemic.
Nationalsanta.com compiled the results of a 2021 “Red Suit Survey,” which found that a number of Santas had retired or stopped working during the pandemic. Some 33% gave up in-person appearances during the height of the pandemic, instead portraying Santa via video chat apps like Zoom, Skype and FaceTime.
Taylor said the changing face and presence of Santa is something he’s working to keep up with through his own site, worldwide-santa-claus-network.com, which he started in 2013.
With “more than 4,800 members,” the site offers year-round classes, mentorship, and other resources for Santa Claus actors and their supporting crews.
It offers everything from a quick start guide for new Santas and regular Zoom sessions to tutoring services and an extensive multi-part curriculum.
“We help the boys to improve their interpretation of Santa. We help them get reservations. It’s been eye-opening how many people ask for Santa and can’t find one,” Taylor said.
Gold Hill resident John Zimmermann, this year’s “Rogue Valley Mall Santa,” said he had noticed increased demand, including requests for Santa to travel farther than usual.
“I’ve noticed that the requests are coming in more and more, and the jobs seem to come from further afield. More people are having trouble finding Santa artists,” she noted.
“I’ve been doing Santa for about 25 years, in Chicago for 17 years and then Fresno before I moved here. He’s busier than I remember ever being.”
Santa’s hustle and bustle, whether it’s infrequent or a regular holiday concert, is hard to resist for anyone looking to spread holiday cheer, he noted.
“At the end of the day, it’s just a bunch of guys, and even some girls, doing what they love,” he said.
“I look back and remember that I resisted at first and then quickly fell in love. I think I look much better now than I did 15 years ago, but every time you show up you earn a little more, you learn manners. … I think the biggest thing people discover when they play Santa, after they’ve been doing it for a while, is who they become in the process.”
While there’s no replacement for the “real deal,” Taylor said authenticity can be achieved. “Becoming Santa,” she said with a cheery smile, is a life-changing process.
“We found that when someone becomes a Santa, they become kinder, more considerate, more generous… they become more like Santa,” Taylor added.
“I think I’ve always been a good guy, but now I’m much more so in my everyday life than ever. When you’re off duty, they still see you as Santa. Everyone you see, everyone who looks at you smiles. Whether it’s a child, a parent or a grandparent, everyone smiles.”
He added: “Everyone thinks you’re Santa… and that changes your experience of the world.”
Taylor is actively recruiting Santas from everywhere, locally and globally. Potential Santas, and stand-ins for Mrs. Claus, should apply as soon as possible at Santaed.com or worldwide-santa-claus-network.com.
Contact reporter Buffy Pollock at 541-776-8784 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @orwritergal.