Santa and Mrs. Claus enjoy the decorations and good will during the Festival of Trees at the Moffat County Courthouse. They will be appearing there Thursday, as well as many other local spots leading up to Christmas Eve.

Photo by Andy Bockelman

Santa and Mrs. Claus enjoy the decorations and good will during the Festival of Trees at the Moffat County Courthouse. They will be appearing there Thursday, as well as many other local spots leading up to Christmas Eve.

Santa, Mrs. Claus bring generosity to Craig

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If you go

What: Festival of Trees

When: 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday

Where: Moffat County Courthouse

Santa and Mrs. Claus will be available at the event, which also will include holiday activities such as caroling.

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Courtesy photo/Rhonda Counts

Santa Claus speaks with kindergartner Essie Counts at Ridgeview Elementary School.

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Courtesy photo/Israel Holloway

The likenesses of Santa and Mrs. Claus are captured as part of local artist Israel Holloway's "Portrait of a Hometown" series. Other pieces by Holloway can be found at IsraelHollowayFineArt.com.

The legend has been around for centuries, and although there are many versions, the basic idea is that there’s a man spreading cheer in December out of the goodness of his heart.

Considering how many places he’s got to be during the holiday season, the people of Craig and Moffat County have been fortunate enough to have this jolly old elf around for an extended period.

It may be hard to believe, but yes, there is a Santa Claus, and he and his wife are becoming more and more visible in the area in the days leading up to Christmas Eve, appearing at numerous parties and events before the big night.

Getting around a single town isn’t too complicated compared to flying around the world, after all.

There’s a great deal of speculation as to the true identity of this couple, who lie low in the off season under the aliases George and Ann Kidder. The names may fool adults, but the children of Craig instantly recognize the man known around the planet by terms like Father Christmas, Saint Nick, Kris Kringle and Sinterklaas, even when he’s not in the red suit.

Santa and Mrs. Claus make appearances in uniform — outfits Mrs. Claus has made herself — a few times during the regular year, but once Thanksgiving is complete, that’s when the real work begins. The Clauses are booked for more than 30 local events this year, including this Thursday at the Festival of Trees at the Moffat County Courthouse.

“We’re so excited to have them here for the kids and lucky to have them visiting from the North Pole,” said Corrie Ponikvar, Festival of Trees organizer.

The couple takes no payment for showing up to such festivities, insisting that their only compensation be for people around the community to continue paying it forward by donating toys, food or funds to a worthy cause.

Santa said his work with the KRAI Holiday Drive this year showed him the level of generosity within the region.

“With all the uncertainty of coal and power, we didn’t know how it was going to go, but they still blew it out of the water,” he said.

The other part of their job is just being available for people whose holidays aren’t always merry, said Mrs. Claus, who enjoys socializing with the residents of Sandrock Ridge Care & Rehab.

“The look on their faces — they know that somebody’s there for them,” she said.

They also try to teach children the religious significance of Christmas and the reason for the season. Although there occasionally are kids with a stack of paperwork detailing their every desire, there are just as many whose yuletide wishes are heartwarming and often humorous.

Mrs. Claus said the strangest request she ever heard was a boy who only wanted three things under the tree on Christmas morning: a bat costume, a tube of Chapstick and a birthday cake.

“I asked him, ‘Well, is it your birthday?’ and he said no, he just wanted some cake,” she laughed.

The Clauses sometimes see skeptics in the crowd, usually age 9 or older, some who wonder where the famous reindeer are, the answer being that they stay out of Craig during hunting season.

Others are less concerned with Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen and all the rest and more with the authenticity of the telltale beard. A tug of the facial hair usually will convince doubting children, but the questions about whether he’s “the real Santa” or if Santa even exists at all are met by a simple philosophical question by the big guy.

“I just ask them, ‘What do you think? What matters is what you believe,’” he said.

Andy Bockelman can be reached at 970-875-1793 or abockelman@CraigDailyPress.com.

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