What is it like to play St. Nick? Buckeye Santas to share experiences

How does someone train to play the role of Santa Claus?

A group called Buckeye Santas will offer insight from their experiences at an upcoming Celebrating Self Series luncheon at the Fitton Center for Creative Arts.

Members of the Buckeye Santas will share insight on what it takes to become a Santa, how they’ve honed their craft, and much more during Celebrating Self at the Fitton Center at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday. Bryan Miller, president of Buckeye Santas, and member Steven Kleiner, will share things like how they train to be Santa Claus, how to get a costume and a beard, and everything that goes into being a Santa. Journal-News caught up with Miller in a Q & A and he gave us a few of the details.

Q: Tell us about Buckeye Santas.

Bryan Miller: Buckeye Santas was founded to help naturally bearded, or real bearded men, who portrayed Santa Claus get together, to help them learn about being a Santa and to fellowship. As the group has grown, Mrs. Claus’, elves and other Christmas performers have become part of the group. We share tips, lessons learned and coaching advice to help each other become better at the craft. About 117 members are currently part of the group. At meetings, Santas might gain tips on how to maintain their beards, how to keep their Santa suits cleaned, or learn basic sign language for Santa. Meetings are held on the second Saturday of every month, January through October, in person, in Columbus. To find out more, visit www.buckeyesantas.com.

Q: Why did you want to be involved with Buckeye Santas?

A: When my beard started coming in white, I became curious about ‘What does it take to be a Santa?’ ‘What is it like to be a Santa?’ ‘Is being a Santa something that I’m fit or positioned to do?’ I wondered if this is something I could do, something that I wanted to do, and I needed to learn. So, I searched the Internet, came across the group and found out they met in Central Ohio. I thought, let me go check this out. I can ask some questions, get some help and that’s how it started. November 2016 was my first year as a Santa.

Q: What are some of the biggest joys of being a Santa? Are there any challenges?

A: Some of the biggest highlights are the joy and excitement many kids have when they see Santa. You see their eyes light up and the excitement builds in them. Just coming to meet Santa Claus is a wonderful experience. And that can happen with kids of all ages. I’ve had an 80-plus-year-old woman come up in a wheelchair. This is both a joy and a challenge. She comes up, she’s in a wheelchair, and she had terminal cancer. She only had a few months to live, and she had never gotten a picture with Santa in her entire life. She had a bucket list. She wanted to get a picture with Santa before she died and I got to do that, and just the joy she had, this is something she had wanted to do her entire life and never got to do it…So, her kids were bringing her to see Santa and she was just a joy to spend time with. At the same time I was visiting with her, her children were weeping, because they got to see their mom doing the thing she dreamed of doing.

How to go

What: Christmas Lunch with Buckeye Santas

When: 11:30 a.m. Wednesday

Where: The Fitton Center for Creative Arts, 101 S. Monument Ave., Hamilton

Cost: Tickets for the event are $19 for members; $25 for non-members. Guests will enjoy an engaging speaker and a catered meal as part of the “Celebrating Self” speaker series. Tickets are available advance at the Fitton Center, or online. Limited tickets will be offered at the door the day of the event, if available.

More info: www.fittoncenter.org or (513) 863-8873 ext. 110.

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