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Top Memories for Santa

Santa Stories

Santa can think quickly for a 753-year-old man. But then, you have to when you’re harnessing holiday enthusiasm with toddlers and children for many hours between Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve.

“I’m there for the parade, I’m there for the tree-lighting, I’m there in Santa’s Village,” says Santa, whose real name is Carl Sanders. “I’m there to have fun!”

And there is no lack of fun in downtown Kalamazoo during the holidays. It starts with the Holiday Parade and the tree-lighting ceremony in the park. Bronson Park lights up and you can take a ride on the Holly Jolly Trolley. Or visit Santa’s workshop located inside Mall Plaza at 157 S. Kalamazoo Mall, where families can visit, take pictures, decorate cookies, or do some crafts.

Sanders, has been Downtown Kalamazoo’s Santa for the better part of ten years. In that amount of time, he has experienced first hand that kids do say the darndest things. The key to answering their questions is experience, and to be prepared.

“The first question I usually get is, ‘Where are the reindeer?’” said Santa. “I usually say, ‘they are on the roof of the building’??"and I add, ‘I only brought two because it was a quick trip down from the North Pole.’”

Nice save, Santa! Not to mention that when they ask if he received his or her letter, the answer is always “yes.”

“Then there was the little girl who asked for fairy dust so she could fly,” said Santa. “I told her I would try, but that it might turn her into a reindeer.”

There is no limit on the range of requests.

“Some kids want their own elf to work for them, and some want Rudolph,” said Santa. “Some want live animals. I usually tell those kids that the animals are afraid to get into the sleigh.”

Because Santa’s Workshop is in the center of downtown, he draws in kids from all different backgrounds. The Gospel Mission brings families who are staying there through the holidays to visit. The downtown professionals bring their children. There are many different neighborhoods within walking distance. Schools visit. It is truly a community event.

During a recent weekend they gave out about 840 candy canes.

Besides kids loving candy, something that hasn’t changed over the years much is that Barbies and Legos are still favorites. Some kids only ask for one thing??"like a car for their mom. And then there are the kids who bring a list that’s several pages. “I ask them if that is just for them, or does it include their whole class?” said Santa.

“Kids who ask for EZ Bake Ovens leave knowing they will need to bake for me,” said Santa. “I have never met a cookie I didn’t like.”

There are always little ones who don’t warm up to Santa, and that’s ok! A high five or a ringing of the bells sometimes works magic. “Sometimes to loosen up kids who can't think of anything when it's time to talk to the big elf, I say, ‘I already know what you want for Christmas: socks and underwear!’”

Sanders’ sister, Sharon Fulkerson, has been Mrs. Claus for 12 years. While the focus is always on the child, she likes to look at the parents’ faces.

“When the kids are so breathless and caught up in the experience, the look on the parents’ faces is priceless,” said Fulkerson. “Santa is fun for everyone.”

For the rest of the downtown holiday schedule, go to

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