’The joy of giving’

Hunstads fill gap, spread Christmas cheer as Santa and Mrs. Claus in Moffat County

Brent Hunstad remembers the moment quite well.

It was Christmas 2019 and the Hunstads were asked to perform as Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus at the Hope Pregnancy Center’s Christmas event.

Brent remembers there being roughly 20-25 kids in attendance, and a sizeable crowd —- something that isn’t quite fathomable this year.

While playing Santa Claus for Hope Pregnancy Center, Brent recalls a young boy climbing onto his lap — roughly 7 years old — when he asked him if he’d been a good boy this year.

“He looks up at me, looks down at the ground, looks back up at me and says ‘well, not particularly, Santa Claus,'” Brent said. “I just about busted a gut; all I could do to retain composure was tell him he still had time.”

That interaction sold Brent on being Santa Claus, pairing with his wife, Jill, to fill a void in the community after long-time Santa Claus, George Kidder, moved to Florida in early 2019.

Prior to the 2019 event at Hope Pregnancy Center, the Hunstads had dabbled in filling in for Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus at various church services in Steamboat Springs and in other states like Indiana, but they’d never fully committed to the role.

Once they found out about Kidder moving away, Jill saw an opportunity. The couple has taken it and run with it since.

“After that little boy said that, I told Jill that I’m really, really hooked now and want to be Moffat County’s Santa Claus,” Brent said. “I want to be the replacement, the new Santa Claus.”

Santa Claus prepares to make some coffee, settling in for a long day ahead. (Joshua Carney / Craig Press)

Being strong believers as a couple, Christmas and the true meaning of the holiday holds a special meeting to the Hunstads. In trying to start a family, the Hunstads had four miscarriages early on. The miscarriages led to the Hunstads praying for a child. On Christmas Day 1984, their first-born son, Brent, came into the world.

“Christmas was always special to us as a couple; we were always really into the true meaning and celebration of the holiday. But when our son was born on Christmas Day, it really amplified things for us,” Jill said. “We believe that that joy, that gift of God, is reflected in Santa Claus.”

Aside from their son’s birth on Christmas Day, the mystery of Santa Claus and the true meaning of the holiday stays in the back of Brent’s mind when playing the role of Santa Claus.

“The whole theme in the back of my mind is John 3:16 — ‘For God so loved the world, as to give his only begotten Son; that whosoever believeth in him, may not perish, but may have life everlasting;’ that’s the ultimate gift,” Brent said. “To me, Christmas is a major reflection of God’s love in the joy of living. Giving is fun; shredding the papers is a blast. But the joy of giving is really, really fulfilling, so we want to keep that joy alive with the little ones and keep that mystery of Santa Claus alive, just like God gave the best gift of Jesus.”

Giving back as Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus has been tough for the Hunstads this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the couple has taken advantage of the few opportunities they’ve had to get out in the community and play their role, most recently at the Parade of Lights on Nov. 28.

Brent and Jill Hunstad love spreading the joy of Christmas as Santa and Mrs. Claus in Moffat County. (Joshua Carney / Craig Press)

Knowing that this year has been tough for everyone, the Hunstads are looking forward to getting back out into the community in 2021 as Santa and Mrs. Claus.

“We can’t wait for that,”Jill said. “We were able to wave to the children during the parade and spread some joy, but we look forward to the traditional Christmas events around the community where we can go and spread cheer to the little ones.”

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