Interview with “The Big Guy”
For the past four years, the role of downtown’s jolly old soul has been filled by John Curtis for Christmastime in the City. Folks around Eau Claire might know John for his highly active role in the Historic Randall Park Neighborhood and the West Grand business corridor. He’s a landlord, runs Eclectica on Grand with his daughter Sarah, and can be found in Grand Avenue Café most days of the week and Court’N House on Sundays. And while John enjoys the role, he said he wouldn’t do it if it wasn’t downtown.
“I have a self-imposed non-compete Claus,” he jokes. “It’s always a joy to be here, in the heart of the city, with all the bustle and smiling faces. I’m proud to be a part of such a wonderful event.”
Volume One: What’s your favorite Christmas song?
Santa Claus: Silver Bells – reminds me of what the downtown folks are trying to do with all the upcoming holiday events.
City sidewalks busy sidewalks.
Dressed in holiday style
In the air
There’s a feeling of Christmas
Meeting smile after smile
And on ev’ry street corner you’ll hear
Silver bells silver bells
It’s Christmastime in the city!
V1: Does it bother you having your picture taken so often?
SC: Naw, it makes the kids so happy, it’s contagious – it’s one of my favorite parts of the job.
V1: What is the most popular thing kids ask you for?
SC: Electronic gadgetry.
V1: What is your favorite Christmas cookie?
SC: Gingerbread people and iced cutout cookies; I love how creative people get in decorating them.
V1: Have you ever been caught planting presents on Christmas Eve?
SC: One year got stuck in a chimney; fortunately I had the elves for backup. I guess the noise must have woken up the kids and they caught us laying their gifts underneath a makeshift evergreen outside. Luckily, that doesn’t happen too often.
V1: How do you celebrate Christmas after the present delivering is over?
SC: After we do a victory lap around the world, I stick my feet up by the tree with Mrs. Claus and the elves and have a hot cocoa. Then we all sit round the table in the banquet hall and have a hearty holiday supper; it’s really Mrs. Claus’ time to shine with her kitchen wizardry!
V1: Is there something a kid has asked for that you’ll never forget?
SC: The best request was a child asking his presents be given to a kid who had none. I make sure that those who have-not are the first to receive presents, but that selfless gesture got him an X-Box 360 that year!
V1: How is the work environment with the elves in the workshop?
SC: Well, sometimes they get a little ornery just before the big night, but mainly it’s a whistle-while-you-work environment. Everyone loves his or her job; it’s nice to be nice to the nice, and we have the best job in the world.
V1: Have you ever thought of changing it up and wearing blue one year?
SC: Mrs. Claus has been on me for years about this one, but it’s my uniform I tell her. That and I never have to worry about what I’m going to wear! I believe Einstein had a similar wardrobe idea.
V1: Do the elves or Mrs. Claus get you presents, or do you cheat and get yourself something, like a beard trimmer?
SC: Because we’re so busy, Mrs. Claus and I always agree not to give each other anything, but we always end up getting each other something. If you can’t give to the one you love the most what’s the point?
V1: What’s your favorite part about the holiday season?
SC: I love it all, but I really miss the caroling! Neighborhoods and families coming together to celebrate life and the holiday season; rumor has it the people of Eau Claire have been trying to bring it back. Thank you!
V1: Do you purposefully maintain the belly for the ‘jolly Santa’ image?
SC: What belly? Just kidding. Mrs. Claus says she likes me this way and I like Mrs. Claus’ cooking – it’s a win/win situation
V1: Do you always make the yearly voyage alone?
SC: Mrs. Claus is my air-traffic controller, so she’s usually on the other end of my radio. I do take the three most productive elves with me as a part of their yearly bonus, and if I get stuck in any more chimneys it’s always good to have back up!