Sunday, April 20, 2014
The Washington Post
(Continued from page 1)
John Parks, in the role of Santa Claus, receives a welcome from school principal Carol Winters while greeting students last week at Newton Lee Elementary School in Ashburn, Va.
Washington Post photo by Astrid Riecken
"About five years ago, I decided to step it up a bit," he said. "I needed a better suit so they couldn't recognize me so easily."
He ordered a $700 custom Santa rig. (In Santa World, there are two main suit styles to chose from: the "traditional," with white fur down the front, and the "Coca-Cola" -- made popular by Coke's mid-century Santa ad campaign -- with buttons instead of fur. Parks opted for traditional.)
To help pay for it, Parks posted a Santa-for-hire ad on Craigslist and appeared at his first private neighborhood party. He walked in, the kids went wild and his stage fright melted away. A December routine was born.
He made enough to cover the suit and pay the rest of his Christmas bills, too. Over the years, he's upgraded to $400 black boots and committed to a real beard, even though it won't be naturally white for a decade or two. He'll dye it black again in January.
"Everybody wants the real beard now," said Carol Turman, a local booking agent who keeps a roster of about 40 Santas for tree lightings, store events and high-end corporate parties. "The ones who get into it like that they can stay real busy."