Santa21

Dan Dearmore, like other local Santas, is excited for the opportunity to be able to return as Santa after the pandemic put a damper on last year’s festivities.

Dan Dearmore recalls one of his favorite memories of being Santa at Zeb’s two years ago. 

A young girl had come in with her family to meet Santa, but when it was time to leave, she wasn’t quite ready. 

“She had come up and sat on my lap, and we took her picture and everything,” Dearmore said. “Then she got her candy and they were getting ready to leave the store, and she ran over and held her little arms out and wanted a hug.” 

Dearmore, like other local Santas, is excited for the opportunity to be able to return as Santa after the pandemic put a damper on last year’s festivities. For him, this is a great way to spread holiday spirit and joy. 

“You know, there’s so much bad in this world today. There’s so much anger. There’s so much hate,” he said. “There’s so much wrong in this world today, and if I can make somebody smile at least once every day, then I’ve done something that I enjoy doing.”

Although Dearmore has only been Santa at local businesses for a short time, he has been Santa on many occasions for local kids before. In previous years, he has stopped by homes and brought gifts -- which he provides -- for children. 

Dearmore said he gets just as much enjoyment, if not more, from this than the children do, so he acts as Santa free of charge. 

“There’s no price on joy and making somebody happy,” he said. “There’s no number for that.” 

He said it’s important for people to keep on the tradition of meeting Santa to maintain the magic and love of the holidays for the kids. 

Dearmore, who lost his wife in 2017, said family is really what the holidays are all about. Getting family together to visit Santa is a great way to keep belief in Santa up and spread the holiday spirit among families, which he said is in low supply in recent years. 

“When you think back on those memories, those are your happiest memories, aren’t they? It’s Santa Claus. It’s the Easter Bunny,” he said. “When you’re a small child, those are what stick in your mind. That’s what I try to keep.” 

Dearmore will be at Eudorable Homes 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Dec. 11, as well as Zeb’s 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Dec 18. 

Eudorable owner Courtney Gebauer said she’s excited to have Santa there to give local kids the opportunity to have a visit with St. Nick so close to home. 

“I think it’s cool because he came to their hometown. They don’t have to go to Crown Center or the Plaza. Santa Claus came to their hometown,” she said. 

Gebauer said Dearmore in particular is great for the role of Santa. 

“I love Dan. He’s awesome -- super friendly. He comes here every week and checks in on me. He’s just a really sweet man,” Gebauer said. 

Zeb’s event coordinator and barista Lizzie Pelzel is excited for the coffeehouse’s second year with Dearmore as Santa. 

“We did it a couple years ago, and it was a huge success, and then with all the things that are happening on Main Street right now with Eudoarble and Twill getting in on the fun and festivities, we were like, ‘We gotta have him,’” she said. 

Pelzel said Zeb’s aims to be the “nucleus of the community” where people can come meet, eat and talk, so she feels having Santa for the holidays is appropriate. This year, visitors can come in and enjoy cocoa with Santa, in addition to other holiday-themed drinks. 

“What I would hope is it would just keep the dream alive. There’s just so many beautiful new children here, and they’re so imaginative, and we just want them to get to have a little bit of magic when they cross the threshold of Zeb’s,” she said. 

Longtime local Santa Phil Bradley is also gearing up for a busy holiday season. He originally began performing as Santa for a friend who wanted a home visit from St. Nick for their child, but had such a great experience the first time that he has continued the tradition for well over a decade. 

“When I left, I got a message from those folks that said their child -- he now totally believes in Santa. They thought he would for quite a while, so that was a very warm feeling,” he said. “There’s just not enough things in the world that gives me warm feelings and where I think I can help others. So I did it again and again and it’s become a habit, and now it’s become a tradition.” 

Since then, Bradley started St Nick Services, where locals can contact him to request a Santa appearance and/or a private video call. Having this business has allowed him to attend more events as Santa and be more methodical in how he magically appears for the children.

“I felt it was important – if I was going to do this – to have a brand and an image that would create the type of Santa I wanted. I’m very – some say – overly concerned with the image of Santa, the myth of Santa, the magic for the children,” he said. “I just need to appear and disappear. So in order to help that, I created St Nick Services, and then that was easier having an image and a company like that that I could put policies in place and standard operating procedures for Santa.” 

Bradley has accumulated “thousands” of memories from being Santa over the past decade, and shared one moment in which a child seemed nervous to ask for what he wanted. Once Bradley asked an elf to distract the parents, the child felt comfortable speaking to him.

“As soon as they were not looking at us, they whispered in my ear: ‘My mom is out of work. Can you get her a job?’ That was rough,” he said. “Fortunately, I know a lot of people at unemployment agencies, so we found her a holiday job that later turned into another job. That was good.”

He cherishes moments like these, and feels it’s important to have children continue to meet and believe in Santa.

“I have been blessed that the people of the Midwest are wonderful, and they seem to share in the wish to keep the mystery of Christmas going,” he said. “My only goal is to help the children be better people and to help them believe for just one more year. That’s what I want.”

Bradley said he will continue performing as Santa for as long as he’s able to do so. 

He joked: “According to the elves, I’m 478 years old, so I’m shooting to go to 500.”

While Dearmore and Bradley are working as Santa to spread holiday cheer, locals can find Christmas spirit through many other events happening around town this month. 

Twill, Eudorable Homes and Zeb’s are open late from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. this Thursday to allow people to get in some holiday shopping. 

Also starting Thursday is Eudora Parks and Rec’s Holiday Lights Hayride, where people can get a ride around town to see holiday light decorations. Rides will take place at 6 p.m. and 6:45 p.m. starting at the rec center. Call ahead to Parks and Rec at 785-542-3434 to book a ride. A $2 donation is encouraged. 

The 9th annual December Dash will take place at 10:30 a.m. Dec. 18 at the rec center. Pre-registration is encouraged.

Those wishing to meet Bradley’s Santa can do so by contacting the St Nick Services Facebook page, or by stopping by one of his many events around Lawrence in December.

Dearmore can be reached for local Santa services at 785-615-9009. If the call is not immediately answered, leave a message that the call is to request Santa. 

Reach reporter Emily Binkley at eudoratimes@gmail.com.

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