It was at Folklorama’s U.K. pavilion last summer where I bumped into an old acquaintance and possibly one of Canada’s most famous citizens. Santa.
He went by the name of Brian Sanderson when I first met him and he was the Human Resource Manager at Bristol Aerospace. He hired me to come and work for them and introduced me to Winnipeg with a very warm welcome indeed.
Brian in those days had a look of Austin Powers, long before Mike Meyers ever dreamed him up. And he had that same style of sartorial elegance and mischievous grin. It was the seventies after all.
Today he looks more like a cross between Willie Nelson and Kris Kringle.
He also goes just by the name of Santa Brian these days. Long retired from the aerospace industry Brian is now a full time year round Santa. Or as he likes to put it, “Santa 24/7/365”.
“Who else has candy canes in the middle of July?” he asked me. Who indeed?
Santa Brian takes his responsibilities very seriously. He’s been the main man in Polo Park’s Santa’s Grotto for 23 years. In addition to that he’s also starred in Winnipeg’s annual Santa Claus parade for a few years now, playing the big guy himself of course.
He says children often ask him if he’s real? He lets them make up their own minds after a visit.
This year he’s also doing a call-in program live on Shaw Channel 9 for three Thursdays in December.
But more impressive are his film roles. It seems that when Hollywood needs a Santa they come to Winnipeg for Brian.
Santa Brian has played himself in five movies now. There’s been local productions like The Adventures of Shirley Holmes and bigger budget movies such as Beethoven’s Christmas Adventures and Home Alone 5, The Heist, co-starring Ed Asner.
When he’s not busy with his cinema work you may find him singing with the Golden Chordsmen or helping out in some of our palliative care centres where he volunteers his time. Working with the Santa Canada and Santa America organization he’ll provide a special visit for anyone who may wish to meet Santa for one last time.
He’s also active with the Junior Chamber International providing Santa visits for underprivileged inner city children and he urges you to be more generous at Christmas to those who are less fortunate than you. You can assist with organizations like the Christmas Cheer Board or Toys for Tots.
One thing about being a full time Santa though is that he tells me he sometimes catches naughty children in the mall.
And he’s making a list. So if you bump into Santa Brian remember that beard is real, don’t go pulling it.