MIDDLEFIELD — You can’t have a great holiday fair without a great Santa, and Powder Ridge Mountain Park and Resort certainly had one on Sunday.
Gift vendors, a carousel, live music, and a festive vibe made up the Powder Ridge Winter Festival. About 600 people have passed through the festival, now in its third weekend.
“This is our first year and we plan to make every year bigger and better,” said Laura Loffredo, director of sales and marketing at Powder Ridge, adding that next year they plan to set up artist huts around the pond on the property.
Aimee Dantas, a Clinton resident who grew up skiing Powder Ridge, wanted to get a photo with Santa for her 11-month-old son Makai and his sisters Zaiya, 6, and Nalia, 3. It was Makai’s first trip to see Santa.
“He was like ‘don’t let go of me, Mom,’” she said.
She thought a family trip to her old ski haunt would be a nice part of a holiday themed day — in the evening they also planned to see the Christmas lights in Ivoryton.
The photo ended up going well.
The entire family got together to make a small Christmas memory.
This happened in no small part due to the careful stage managing by Santa Claus.
Santa has to have a strategy, explained West Hartford resident Chip Adams, who was playing Kris Kringle at the festival.
“You have to read a kid as soon as they come in,” he explained. “The most excited ones are usually three or four years old. They’ve been enthusiastically talked up to see Santa.”
How do parents usually accomplish this? Christmas movies and television shows.
“Santa on TV is this big,” he said, holding his hands close together. “They come in to see Santa. All of a sudden they start to slow down. They see how big Santa is. They stop about 10 feet away. They are done with Santa.”
Usually, Adams invites the children and their parents to come close for a photo and engages in a bit of whimsical banter with the child.
Some times creating a great Santa moment takes a bit of improvisation. A little girl and her bearded dad approached Santa.
“Who are you here with?” he said. “Are you comfortable with a beard because your dad has one?”
Adams talked nicely to the little girl, who begins to make cat noises. She’s obsessed with cats, her dad explains. Adams makes meowing noises right back.
Adams got his start in the Santa business about four years ago. He was volunteering at Southwick’s Zoo in Menton, Massachusetts when he overheard a dad noting his resemblance to Santa Claus.
Adams began doing Santa training, something he mastered so well as to be able lead the Intro to the Sleigh class. He joined the New England Santa Society. He read “The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus,” by L. Frank Baum (better known as the author of “The Wizard of Oz” books) to get Santa’s backstory down.
“Kids will ask you anything,” Adams said.
A particularly enthusiastic dad brought his daughters Charlotte and Sophie up to meet Santa. “Tell him how good you are,” he said.
“The last time I saw you, you were this tall,” Adams said, holding a hand slightly below her current height. “How did you grow so tall so fast?”
“I ate a lot of food,” Charlotte said.
Most of the time Adams does the normal Santa duties – festivals like Sunday’s at Powder Ridge, photo sessions, holiday parties. Occasionally the job is a little harder. A couple of nights ago, Adams made a house call to a family where both small children were undergoing chemotherapy.
In the end, you can have all the training, have a great snowy white beard, but Adams said there is only one thing that makes a good Santa. He tapped his chest.
“You have to have heart. If you have the heart, we can bring you in,” Adams said.