Kelowna's own St. Nick knows a little about persistence and the holiday spirit - InfoNews

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Kelowna's own St. Nick knows a little about persistence and the holiday spirit

Kelowna photographer Darren Hull has posted an amazing photo essay featuring Santa Tom Kliner.
Image Credit: Darren Hull
November 22, 2019 - 6:00 AM

His snowy white beard is as real as his Christmas spirit, which is why “Santa Tom” Kliner has built a devout following.

The man many call “Kelowna’s Santa” for his consistent appearance at many of the city’s signature events is a must-see staple of the season. And he turns heads even when he’s not in character, as was the case earlier this month when he sat down to talk about what it means to be the human embodiment of one of the season’s most beloved icons.

“Yeah, I get that everywhere,” he said, in a low baritone that was made for a ho-ho-ho.

“It’s a daily thing for 365 days a year that I run into kids and parents …  I can’t tell you how many times driving down the road and I’ll see someone waving and saying ‘Hi, Santa.’ I live in two worlds.”

When one of these magical sightings occur and the opportunity to explain himself arises, Kliner says simply, “I’m here to see you when you are awake — also, the beach is great and so is the peach pie.”

The latter line worked so well that he once received a peach-apple pie when coming in for a special visit.

He makes it all look easy, but it takes a pretty significant effort to be St. Nick for so many little ones year after year.

“It’s a long process,” he said. “The biggest thing is it’s hard on the hair and the skin.”

The beard has to be snowy white, but getting it that colour is a gradual process. If he bleaches too fast, it could burn off the whole crop of facial hair.  

Mrs. Claus is the architect of this follicle masterpiece.

“She used to think I was nuts, but she saw how fun it is and now I couldn’t do it without her,” he said.

She’s the one who makes the velvety suits that are synonymous with Jolly Old St. Nick, and she completes an inventory of what’s ready to go in October.

“They have to be steamed, fresh and ready,” he said.

Belts and boots are taken out of storage and inspected for consistency.

“Kids can spot fakes,” he said.

And then there are the collection gloves.

These serve two purposes. First, it’s part of the consistent look that sets him apart from lesser Santas.

Also, it’s a bit of a barrier that stops him from getting sick during his marathon of goodwill that starts early in November and doesn’t end until Christmas Eve.

“Santa isn’t something you can do and then phone in and say, ‘sorry, can’t make it today, can we rebook for tomorrow?’” He said. “You have to be on time and able.”

It was a particularly difficult task last year.

Kliner was hit by a car Sept. 1 after 11 p.m near Springfield Road near Willits Road in Kelowna. Emergency responders arrived on scene to find him injured on the ground.

For a while, it wasn’t clear if he would pull through. When he did, it wasn't without suffering.

“There were a lot of concessions made for me last year,” he said. “I was basically a prop… my wife took four months off work, to make sure I could make it to every event. “

His steady clients and the families who made their way to him were also supportive.

“In general I get treated like gold when it comes to Santa stuff, “ he said.

“Then last year people were even more gentle. They were asking if I was OK, and some kids brought cards."

While they had to restrict people who sat on his lap, he made it through the season and is still healing from his injuries. But he’s not willing to let go of the role he has grown to love.

He’s a bit of a leader among St. Nicks, having done conventions, taught classes and started web groups all aimed at helping get burgeoning Santas across the globe get their game up to the next level.

That and he’s a real Santa wonk, having learned everything he can about the man, the myth and legend.

And there’s one big reason to persist, come what may. It's not always been easy, but it's been worth it, he said, for the joy he brings to people young and old.

“I just love it,” he said.

To follow Santa Tom on his way, check out his website, www.santatom.com.


To contact a reporter for this story, email Kathy Michaels or call 250-718-0428 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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