Behind the Scenes: An Interview With Santa Claus
With just 10 days until Christmas, Belmont County Tourism Council Executive Director Barb Ballint sat down with Santa Claus to discuss Christmas traditions, COVID-19 challenges, and his favorite places to eat, shop, and visit in Belmont County.
Santa said he always enjoys coming to Belmont County. The first question Barb asked him was, "Do you go by Santa or St. Nick?" Santa replied that he goes by many names, and that it was St. Nicholas who started the tradition of giving.
"I have been doing this for 553 years and Mrs. Claus says that I have at least another 500 years in me," Santa said.
Santa said he has been taking precautions against COVID-19. He wears a face shield and gloves, uses disinfectant, and asks everyone else to wear a mask. He said that despite misinformation on the national level that he and Mrs. Claus are immune to the coronavirus; they are not. But he added that the elves are immune because they are not human.
Santa said that maintaining social distance when visiting children has been difficult for him and the children. "I miss seeing their smiling faces," he said.
Barb also asked Santa if he always traveled by sleigh. Santa said that he only travels by sleigh once a year and uses all other forms of transportation the rest of the time.
"You never know where you will see me," he said. Santa said he also has "safe houses" around the world where he stays with people and sometimes borrows their car. "That's why you should be good and ALWAYS be wary that Santa could be anywhere," he said.
Next, Barb asked Santa how the reindeer were and if they were ready to go. He said the reindeer were rested and ready for their annual trip around the globe, having recently competed in the annual Reindeer Games. " Vixen came in first place. Cupid was second and Rudolph was third. That's a pretty good showing for Rudolph, since he is a lot smaller than the other reindeer," Santa said.
He said that for seven days before Christmas Eve, he feeds the reindeer a magical oat and corn mixture so that they can fly.
When asked how he fits down so many different chimneys, Santa replied that he has a special team of engineering elves who have identified over 386 different types of chimneys and provided him with the schematics for them.
"So you never use the front door?" Barb asked. Santa then revealed his "magic key" which not only opens any lock, but silences barking dogs so that families don't wake up before he can place the presents under the tree.
Barb asked Santa what he enjoys doing in his "free" time. Santa said he and Mrs. Claus enjoy traveling all over the world. He said the elves enjoy fishing. Santa said one of his favorite events in Belmont County is the Blame My Roots Country Music Festival in July. He said he was looking forward to headlining performer Miranda Lambert.
"You may see me there in my shorts, Hawaiian shirt, and a straw hat with a red band," he said.
Santa, who enjoys historical sites, said he also likes the scenic covered bridge in St. Clairsville; the Victorian Mansion Museum and B& O Train Depot in Barnesville; the Great Stone Viaduct in Bellaire; the Blaine "S" Bridge, and Barkcamp State Park.
"Belmont County has a special place in my heart," Santa said.
Santa revealed that if he had to choose, his favorite cookie would be oatmeal raisin. He also prefers chocolate milk.
Santa said he is treated to many different treats around the world and enjoys the ethnic Hungarian, Polish, and Ukrainian treats in the Ohio Valley. He said he enjoys sweet treats from Kirke's Homemade Ice Cream and all of Belmont County's bakeries.
"Mrs. Claus is always telling me to eat more carrots. A mother I talked to recently said she had the perfect solution - she would make carrot cake for Santa!"
Santa mentioned the pizza places in Belmont County and said he missed Home Pizza in St. Clairsville. He said he likes all types of food and enjoys all of the county's locally-owned restaurants.
Santa said his elves don't make all the toys and gifts. He also has a special relationship with local stores and people who make handmade gifts "from the heart". Santa mentioned Deluxe Toy & Hobby in Martins Ferry, Johnson Family Pottery, Barnesville Antique Mall, and many others.
"We can't make them all, so we depend upon the great workmanship of the merchants of Belmont County," he said.
Santa also talked about the strange gift requests he receives and told the story of trying to deliver a hippopotamus for Christmas. He said it was a disaster and is why he does not fill requests for live animals such as puppies and kittens, leaving those gifts up to mom and dad.
Santa said he has different teams of elves for different tasks such as keeping track of letters and wish lists, address changes, and even a "special SEAL team of elves to rescue Elves on the Shelf".
"I have more elves than there are stars in the sky. They are all sizes and every kind," Santa said.
He said that if children ever stopped believing in him and having the Christmas spirit, he would stop coming. Santa said to recharge Christmas spirit, all you have to do is say, "I believe in Santa Claus" five times.
Concluding his interview, Santa reminded children to behave and listen to their parents. He also wanted to remind everyone of the true meaning of Christmas.
"The birth of Jesus is the greatest gift for all of us," he said.
Merry Christmas from Santa Claus and the Belmont County Tourism Council!
Click here to watch the interview with Santa, followed by a special reading of The Night Before Christmas.