Santa By Request    







A Priest in a Confessional

The Glenn Unzicker Story

published by "The Star", 2003


It all started a few years ago when Glenn Unzicker was traveling with his family. He'd always had a big, white beard, but still couldn't understand why the lady in the hotel they were staying at asked him if he wanted to play Santa for the hotel during his stay. Ultimately, he declined her request.


"I was a little offended at first," Unzicker admitted. "But it stayed with me long after the trip. Then I thought, 'why not?' Maybe I could bring a little joy to a child. And really Christmas is for more than children. And to bring a smile to someone's face - it makes me feel pretty good."


Three years ago, Unzicker and his family were visiting an aunt in Illinois. She wanted to get something so Unzicker said he took her to a store. "It was two days before Christmas and sitting on this shelf was a Santa suit for half off," he explained. "Usually those suits can range anywhere from $200-$1,000, so I debated. Then I figured, if I don't buy it when it's half-off, when am I going to do it?" So Unzicker purchased the outfit and brought it back to his aunt's house to try it on. It was a perfect fit - once pillows were used to stuff the tummy.


Unzicker said the cherry red Santa suit has a lot of power, "especially during sad times and serious situations. You become this icon of sorts," he added. With power comes responsibility.


"I talked to a child and she had lost her dog. All she wanted was her dog back, and you kind of don't know what to say. So what you kind of have to do is give them hope without making any promises," said Unzicker. "I told her I'd be out all over the place at Christmas and I would keep my eye out for her dog. Chances are it won't happen (that the child's dog will come back) but you leave them with a little better feeling."


During another incident, Unzicker said he found an elderly woman sitting on a bench in a hallway at the business he was playing Santa at. "She was looking kind of dejected," said Unzicker. "I asked her if she was OK, and she said she was, that she just couldn't take all the walking and that she was in town visiting her daughter." The woman went on to tell Unzicker that her dog had recently died and so had her husband. This was going to be the first Christmas she was spending without them.


"People tell me the things they wouldn't tell me if I didn't have this Santa suit on," he said. "It's almost like I'm a priest in a confessional. Sometimes, people are expecting a miracle."




Some funny things have come out of Unzicker's playing the Santa role. One evening the phone rang, and when he answered it, a little voice came over the phone: "Are you Santa's helper?" Confused for a moment, Unzicker almost hung up on the child, thinking it was a prank. But after taking a few minutes to figure things out, Unzicker learned the youth got his phone number from the daycare or preschool he was attending. After he got over the silence, Unzicker said he was, in fact, Santa's helper. He listened to the boy, who told him he hadn't received any detentions this year and that he wanted a Magic 8-Ball.


Another time Unzicker was traveling in his car on the way home from a Santa sighting, when kids in a mini van began waving at him excitedly. Unzicker pulled his car into Stop 'n Go, where the family also stopped to visit with Santa.


Unzicker tries to let the customer dictate what the visit will entail


"A lot of different things have happened," said Unzicker. "the trick is not to try to play the character of Santa, but to be yourself in the suit." One day while driving, the surprise was on Santa himself. "I was driving out in the east coast - I was out on the Pennsylvania turnpike," said Unzicker. "It was around the holidays and while I was driving, I turned my head to the driver in the car next to me. She was dressed up like Mrs. Claus and waving at me," recalled Unzicker, laughing.


Besides making appearances at business gatherings, holiday parties, personal appearances and a few charitable gigs, Unzicker said he tries to let the customer dictate what the visit will entail. He's even delivered gifts.


"I figure I'm doing a service," said Unzicker. "It's a pleasure to provide joy. The season is limited - but I've had a lot of neat experiences." Some of those experiences come from caught-in-the-moment ad-libbing and the funny things kids request. Unzicker said some of the most commonly asked questions from kids are, "What's the North Pole like," "How many elves do you have," and even "How do you get the toys to everyone?"


"Mostly they just tell you what they want, but the more curious ones want to know things," said Unzicker, laughing. Unzicker said he prepares by knowing exactly what the new toys are, what the popular toys are and any gift trends. "One woman was so surprised I knew the name of the doll her daughter wanted, I thought she was going to fall out of her chair," said Unzicker.


Turn non-believers in believers


Santa School (yes, Santa School) also helped with playing the part. At Santa-School, would-be Santas learn the tricks of the trade; and the most important knowledge of all: How to be believable. Santa hopefuls learn everything from how to take a good picture to details of a Santa costume, wigs and even problem-solving.


"They talk to you about challenges with children," said Unzicker. "And things to pay attention to. Like if a child conveys signs they aren't being treated right, then that's something we'd want to report. It's about how to deal with situations like that," he added.


Fortunately, Unzicker said he hasn't come across anything like child abuse. He has, however, turned some non-believers into believers. "It was a Saturday after Thanksgiving and this woman comes up to me. She pointed out a woman with two children, and said she overheard that the one child was having difficulty reading. "Apparently the child's teacher had said she was going to e-mail Santa if the child didn't try to improve." Armed with that knowledge, Santa confronted the child with, "So, I hear you've been having trouble reading?" "The look on the mother's face was absolutely priceless," said Unzicker. "After that she couldn't stop talking about it, wondering how I knew. It helps to have elves out in the field."


Unzicker said he enjoys playing the world's most well-known figure. "It's really a lot of fun playing that position," he said. "You can take something - some moment - and make a memory for someone. People want to believe," he added. "And they will believe."




Sun Prairie, December 25, 2003
The original headline of this article was "Santa 4 Hire" ,
new headlines have been added and some paragraph breaks
have been removed for easier online reading.





Santa By Request: Sun Prairie's newspaper "The Star" about Glenn Unzicker playing Santa Claus

A Priest in a Confessional

Santa Claus rental, Santa for hire / santa for rent. Santa Claus, Christmas, reindeer, sleigh, north pole, elves, and Glenn Unzicker.