While the jolly old elf hasn’t been reduced to holding a cardboard sign on street corners, proclaiming that he’ll ho-ho-ho for food, the post-recession times are tough on the world’s most famous deliveryman.
Metro Atlanta area Kriss Kringles say that their hours have been slashed; they haven’t had a pay raise in several years; and, even as Christmas Day closes in, their calendars are wide open for parades, office parties or sitting in the big chair at the mall to ask children if they’ve been naughty or nice.
Gary Casey, 71, of Duluth has been portraying St. Nick since 1996, and he says he’s never seen times this tough.
“Oh sugar,” he said. “In the good times, I’d have 400 bookings. But now I’m just barely breaking 100.”
Casey, who founded the company SantaAtlanta.com, said before the recession hit in 2007, he typically arranged appearances for more than 100 Santas. But, these days, he’s down to just 60 working Santas.
“There just isn’t enough work to go around,” he said. “It’s unbelievable.”
Being married to a “Santa-in-waiting”, so to speak, this comes as very bad news. Especially when thinking about retirement. We’ve talked about the hubster taking up something like this in his later years for a very long time.
Eric Winney, 52, of Buford is moonlighting this season with “Santa’s Lawn and Landscape Services.”
“Yes, Santa also cuts the grass for a living,” Winney said. “It helps pay the bills.”
Winney also has a side business of renting out actual reindeer to pull Santa’s sleigh in parades or make guest appearances for office parties.
“It’s been real slow,” he said. “We’ve got 30 reindeer that are pretty much idled.”
Cut grass? The hubster hates to cut grass. That’s what teenage boys are for. Oh my.
Both Winney and Casey say that, as Santa, they typically make between $150 and $200 an hour, albeit their Santa season is just in November and December. They haven’t raised their rates in years, and they say other Santas are charging even less.
“But we have real beards and authentic, high-end costumes,” Casey said. “Kids can tell a fake beard a mile away. And a dime-store costume just isn’t going to cut it. So, yes, that costs a little more.”
I bought the Santa pattern years ago. I have the outfit in my head. Visions of velvet and ribbon. A fur tipped cape. A bit Russian, a bit Irish, with tiny bells all the way down the stripe of his pants.
We can’t let the Grinch win now, can we?