Hundreds of jolly elves and their spouses, including a couple from Angier, joined Santas from around the world this month to learn to better their craft and how to bring more smiles to children’s faces.
Jesse and Debbie Ferrell Cann traveled to Tennessee to participate in the Santa Family Reunion. They, along with five other couples from North Carolina, and roughly 500 other Mr. and Mrs. Clauses, convened for an event full of fellowship, fun and getting better at being Santa.
The group included Santas of all ages, including an 18-year-old. Also in attendance was one of the country’s best-known Santa Clauses, who appeared on the final float in the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade in New York City.
It was a learning experience for Mr. and Mrs. Cann.
“We have been doing Santa for 25 years and we never knew this was out there,” Mrs. Cann said. “This was like going to school for us.”
The reunion is held every two years in Gatlinburg. It’s a weekend full of parades, events and educational seminars. A favorite for Mrs. Cann was a Santa-led church service on Sunday.
“They were Bible-reading, Jesus-loving Santas,” Mrs. Cann said. “It was so emotional to see them leading the worship service.”
There was also a ceremony that honored Santas who served in the military.
“From 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day, it was nonstop Santa,” Mrs. Cann said.
The local Santas were a hit at the Santa fashion show as they showed off their appropriately colored red and white swimsuits.
“The Santas all looked the same but there was more variety in Mrs. Clauses,” Mr. Cann said.
The reunion is also a time to join other Santas in forming lasting bonds.
“It is amazing how fast all the Santas bonded — it was almost instant,” Mrs. Cann said. “We met people we will be friends with the rest of our lives.”
Similar experiences between Santas made the bond stronger.
“You are with people who understand we don’t play Santa, this is a calling,” Mrs. Cann said. “It really was a reunion because it is like a big family.”
The Canns went to a total of five workshops. Topics included learning sign language to communicate with deaf students, marketing yourself as Santa, figuring out Santa finances and puppeteering.
The large group of Santas made in impact throughout the Gatlinburg community.
“One of the fun things was when a group of Santas went somewhere, children were trying to figure out who was the real Santa,” Mr. Cann said.
The Canns ended up with a new friend for their ministry as a result of the puppeteering class. Luke made the trip back from Gatlinburg and will soon be a part of local events.
The Canns also joined the International Brotherhood of Real Bearded Santa Clauses. That group is exclusive to those, like Mr. Cann, whose beard is 100 percent natural.
“We always have known we were Santa, but this made it official,” Mrs. Cann said.