Penticton Santa embraces 'blessing in disguise' but not without challenges | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Penticton News

Penticton Santa embraces 'blessing in disguise' but not without challenges

Penticton Santa Gary Haupt at a recent Santa photo shoot in Penticton.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED / Gary Haupt Facebook page

Gary Haupt’s 15 minutes of fame is over with, but not before fielding inquiries for his story from as far away as Great Britain.

Fox news in New York and a radio station in Los Angeles also spoke to Haupt about his firing from Cherry Lane Shopping Centre on Nov. 27 as mall Santa after shopping centre management decided photos of Haupt posted on social media were inappropriate.

Two weeks later Haupt is calling the firing “more than a blessing in disguise” as the phone continues to ring and demand for his Santa services continues to grow.

He’s had to wrestle with a "Santa perception" problem, however, as many people call with an expectation jolly old St Nick can provide his services for free.

“Santa is in demand to do all sorts of things, but people don’t realize I have expenses and a personal schedule to work around,” he says.

Haupt says some people have become angry when he tells them there is a charge for his services.

“When you hire someone like a piano player, you say, sure we’re going to pay you, but some people don’t see hiring Santa the same way,” he says. “I’ve also had a woman call me asking for me to make an appearance for her six year old daughter, who is perpetually sick. You don’t pay me for that. That’s something that means a lot to (partner Sharon Nichols) and myself, and it means a lot to that little girl and her mother. It’s a wonderful experience."

He and Nichols, who plays Santa’s elf, have been able to provide some entertainment for their favourite societies which include the Okanagan Similkameen Neurological Society and the South Okanagan Women in Need Society’s Christmas functions.

“Lots of people have reached out to us. I would love to say, sure, I’ll come out and do that, but at times it almost becomes an abusive relationship. It’s a struggle, you’re constantly saying, ‘I can, I can’t, I will, I won’t, and people don’t necessarily take it well,” he says.

Since he didn’t have any personal plans for Christmas Eve, Haupt says he has taken on a couple of engagements on that occasion, keeping him busy right up until the big day.

He’s satisfied he has been able to do several things for the community in addition to having the paid opportunities to be Santa.

“Most people see it the right way, and see us for who we are. It’s been great fun working with kids, families, and now even pets. I might become the pet whisperer,” he says.

“I’m not disappointed at the outcome. I love doing it this way."

Penticton Santa Gary Haupt has found a new clientele for his Santa engagements.
Penticton Santa Gary Haupt has found a new clientele for his Santa engagements.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED / Gary Haupt Facebook page

To contact a reporter for this story, email Steve Arstad or call 250-488-3065 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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