In the community

Local duo keep the spirit of Christmas alive as Santa and Mrs. Claus

ONTARIO – For Jeff Carpenter and his wife Dana, Christmas time is all about the smiles.
They come from children who cast a glance across a room and spy he his wife dressed as Santa and Mrs. Claus.
They come parents as they watch their children race to tell Santa what they want for Christmas.
“It is the Claus magic,” said Jeff Carpenter.
Many people in the Treasure Valley already know Carpenter. More precisely, they recognize his voice as he spent more than three decades as a radio disc jockey, known as Dale Jefferies, station sales manager, program director and radio station manager.
“Growing up I wanted to really be an actor. I was in music and theater in high school. I ended up with a love of radio. Every person who listens to the radio has their own impression of what is on the other side of that radio,” said Carpenter.
Carpenter, a Baker City native, began his radio career in 1985 at the local radio station, KBKR. His distinctive voice was an early trademark.
“There are so many times I would meet people in public and they’d tell me, you don’t look anything like you sound on the radio,” he said.
Carpenter then moved around in the radio business, including stints in Boise, La Grande and in Ontario where he worked at former KSRV radio station as a DJ, program manger and station manager.
The couple’s journey to becoming Santa and Mrs. Claus was by happenstance 10 years ago.
A couple who had been performing that community service retired and the Malheur County fairgrounds needed a new Santa. Carpenter got the call. He concedes he has a hard time saying no to such requests.
“I was single and had just met my wife. So, I had a talk with her about being Mrs. Claus. She accepted the challenge,” said Carpenter.
Carpenter said his wife’s performance was crucial.
“It is amazing how through the 10 years we have continued to progress and grow the Mrs. Claus magic. She definitely has the Mrs. Claus magic with these kids,” said Jeff.
The role of Mrs. Claus let’s her “forget about your troubles you may have.”
His wife said. “You can become Mrs. Claus and that is so much fun because you get into that role.”
Her decision to become Mrs. Claus was also significant for another reason.
“That is when I fell in love with my husband. You find out what a person’s character is when you sit with them for four days all day long. I realized he has an amazing character and that is very rare. We’d only been going out a few months when we started doing Santa and Mrs. Claus,” she said.
Dana Carpenter said there is no downside to her role.
“It is so much fun,” she said.
The couple’s Santa season starts in November and “we try to wrap it up by the week before Christmas,” she said.
They appear at events in Weiser, Ontario and Fruitland and do private events. Sometimes they get paid. Sometimes they don’t.
The Carpenters said they play the Santa and Mrs. Claus during days off and, occasionally, they will take time off from work to don their Santa gear.
Carpenter works for Horizon Airlines in Boise while his wife works in hospice care.
Switching into the Santa and Mrs. Claus suits “usually takes 30 minutes or so. Maybe 45 minutes.
There is kind of a transition, a make-up process, the suit and then the beard,” said Carpenter.
“You put that suit on and there is not a bad day. The world could come down on your shoulders beforehand but once you put that Santa suit on the magic takes over,” he said.
“We stock up on Airborne and Vitamin C to boost our immune systems to keep us healthy but in ten years there has not been a bad occurrence,” he said.
The reaction of the children when they see Santa and Mrs. Claus is what they watch for.
“They walk in the door all giddy and they can hardly wait,” said Jeff.
Sometimes the enthusiasm will suddenly wane for children who are suddenly within a few paces of Santa.
“They get about 10 feet and then it’s like, nope, not going to do it. It is quite comical. Then Dana gets out there with a candy cane and tells them how much she likes their shiny boots or how their vest matches their shirt and within a couple of minutes they are sitting on my lap or Mrs. Claus’s lap,” said Jeff.
Over the years, Carpenter said the items children ask Santa to deliver remain stable.
“I would probably say for girls its dolls, the different types of dolls, the trend. This year Barbie is popular because of the movie,” said Jeff.
For boys, he said, remote-controlled monster trucks top the list and “hoverboards have also been kind of popular this year.”
There are poignant moments.
“One girl wanted a Bible. One kid wanted his mom to be cured of cancer. That was tough,” he said.
They told the child that her desire for her mom to be cured of cancer was “an amazing wish and we hope and pray the doctors can bring that wish true along with some Santa magic and the elves.”
Sometimes a child will ask for more time with a deceased parent.
“We try to remain as positive as we can. We just try to bring a smile to them. But, yeah, there are some real tough situations out there,” said Jeff.
Once, they were asked to make a springtime visit to little girl a with a terminal disease.
“She was not going to make it to December. So, we had what we called Easter/Christmas, all of the holidays together and we were able to celebrate Christmas in April. It snowed that morning,” said Dana Carpenter.
He said that over the years he’s learned that “inside, people are still good.”
“It seems with the magic of Santa, there comes a smile out of pretty much everybody,” said Carpenter.
The couple said the Santa magic keeps them going.
“We can bring the magic no matter what the age,” said Dana Carpenter.

News tip? Contact reporter Pat Caldwell at [email protected].

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