Local Santa Claus has nearly 30 years practice
Who's the jolly old man hiding behind a long white beard and heavy red costume? Dick Rutherford, a long-time resident of Park Rapids and owner of Toys for Boys, has been Santa Claus for almost 30 years. He's got a busy night ahead of him this Chr...
Who's the jolly old man hiding behind a long white beard and heavy red costume?
Dick Rutherford, a long-time resident of Park Rapids and owner of Toys for Boys, has been Santa Claus for almost 30 years.
He's got a busy night ahead of him this Christmas Eve; he's stopping at 11 houses to make many wishes come true.
When he's done handing out presents, the kids usually ask to go out and see his reindeer and sleigh. To distract them, he tells a story.
"Santa's had a long trip and his reindeer are tired, so they stopped at a farm and the farmers offered to feed them."
When Rutherford was asked to play Santa for the first time, he decided it was something he wanted to continue doing.
"I just enjoyed it so much," he said.
His career as Santa Claus began in the Twin Cities. He's visited other areas right outside of town, but he likes staying in Park Rapids.
"I got a lot of friends down here," he said. And now that Rutherford has been Santa for many years, he's taken pictures with up to three generations.
"I happen to know the kids' parents and I know their grandpa and grandma," he said. "You can nail them down and say, 'I know your grandpa and he told me that you haven't been good this year.'"
Although some kids are afraid of Santa and his long beard, others like 4-year-old Nikki Wilkom James bring him treats.
Last year, Nikki brought Santa a basket of homemade cookies and a stocking cap. She told him the only way she'd be able to bring him cookies again was if he returned the basket.
He put a stuffed animal in her stocking and told his daughter, who lived next door to Nikki, to wait until she went to bed and place the basket with the present underneath the tree. This year, Nikki returned the same basket only this time, she brought Santa some Oreo cookies. "There is a lot of personal satisfaction in doing it," said Mrs. Santa Claus, Nancy Rutherford. "When you see the smile on their faces, they light up..."
Not only the children's faces light up, Nancy said.
In a house visit the Rutherfords made several years ago, the grandmother had a wish.
"Is there anything else you need?" Santa asked the family before he left.
"The only thing I've ever wished for is to be able to dance with Santa Claus," replied the grandmother.
"Well, let's put some music on!" replied Santa.
"And we danced. I mean this woman was 80-some years old," Dick Rutherford said with a smile.
Santa Claus isn't coming to town, he's living right in the heart of it.