Weather Forecast


Tales from a local Santa

Bert Nelson of New York Mills has played the part of Santa in the area for about 15 years. He recently showed up at the NYM Community Christmas Program, at left with local kids Boyd and Lindsey Olson.

Doing much of the ho-ho-hoing around the Perham and New York Mills area during the holiday season is another local Santa, Bert Nelson.

Nelson figures he's been playing the role of jolly ol' Saint Nick for about 15 years now. He spends his holidays stationed at area businesses, and frequenting local Christmas gatherings and holiday kick-off events.

"I don't know if it's just my personality, or my physique, but others thought I was perfect for it," Nelson explains of how he got into his role as Santa. That, and the enjoyment he discovered in bringing smiles to the faces of local kids.

"Two or three years ago, at New York Mills City Hall, out of the corner of my eye I saw this young girl that just came up the stairs. When she saw me, I've never seen a kid smile so big. She came straight to me; she didn't even get in line or anything. She came up to me, gave me a big hug, and said, 'Santa, I love you,'" Nelson recalls of one of his favorite Santa moments. To him, experiences like this make it all worth while.

As an added bonus, Nelson often knows the kids who come to sit on his lap, providing him with fodder to make the Santa experience even more magical. He'll call the kids he recognizes by name, even asking them about their brothers and sisters--all to the delight and utter astonishment of the children.

Nelson says he's even had a few moms crawl onto his lap over the years.

Reflecting on this year's popular present requests in Otter Tail County, Nelson says he's noticed quite a trend. "The younger kids, depending on who they are, want Transformers; the boys like those. It's Hannah Montana for the girls," he reports.

One of his more memorable gift requests came from a little girl who once asked Santa for a baby brother. "I said, 'You need to talk to your mommy and daddy about that one," Nelson recalls with a laugh.

There's always the element of surprise and amusement when working with kids. Nelson says he's glad he doesn't have a real beard, as he's had a few toddlers grab his beard and take off with it. All in all, it's the mishaps that help make the Santa experience even more entertaining.

"I just enjoy doing it," says Nelson. "I enjoy being with the kids and helping them celebrate their Christmas."