Yes, Pennsylvania, there is a Santa Claus … and you don't have to go to the North Pole to share your Christmas wishes with him. That's because he now lives right here in the Lehigh Valley.
After several years away from the area, the "Real Mr. and Mrs. Santa A. Claus" have returned home.
"We're back," said Mrs. Claus, happily.
"And we're here to stay," added Santa A.
Their busy Christmas season schedule includes appearances at tree lightings, parades, breakfasts with Santa, Christmas story readings, family gatherings and private parties. In addition, they have found a home at Elaine Zelker Photography in Easton. Here, children of all ages as well as the family pets can have their photos taken with this special couple.
Santa A. is approaching a special milestone next year. Next year will mark his 50th anniversary as the "jolly old elf" 30 years professionally. He started at the Catasauqua Fire Company in 1963.
Over the years, Santa A. has appeared at Hess's Department Store in Allentown; Orr's Department Store in Bethlehem; Lehigh Valley Mall; Whitehall Mall; Allentown Outlet Mall; Ice City in Allentown; Monmouth Mall in Eatontown, New Jersey; Woodbridge Mall in Woodbridge Township, New Jersey; and Willowbrook Mall in Wayne, New Jersey.
His travels have also taken him to Santa's Workshop in North Pole, New York.
Back in 1986, he began a unique nine-year journey to legally change his name to Santa A. Claus. His request was denied three times including in Lehigh County Court by Judge James N. Diefenderfer in August of 1989. Never giving up, he persevered in his quest.
Finally, on March 13, 1995 in front of family, friends and well-wishers he received the gift that he most wanted. With the help of Pennsylvania State Senator Roy C. Afflerbach, he legally became Santa A. Claus.
After leaving the Department of Motor Vehicles, he met Gov. Tom Ridge and was designated "Pennsylvania's Official Santa."
Following a chance encounter between his sister and a special artists' management agent in New Jersey, Santa A.'s career really "took off."
"It's amazing how God plays a hand in people's lives if we just let him," said Santa A.
From that point on, he began appearing in hundreds of billboard, print, and television advertisements. These include Bed Bath & Beyond; Campbell's; Coca-Cola; The Coffee Grinder; Disney; Harley-Davidson; Park City Mall in Lancaster; Pepsi-Cola; Rileighs; ShopRite; and Tastykake.
When Mall of America opened in 1992 in Bloomington, Minn., mall officials visited Santa A. in the Lehigh Valley. Out of hundreds who were interviewed from all over the country, he was hired as " America's Number One Santa at America's Number One Mall."
In 1993, the "Real Mr. and Mrs. Santa A. Claus" began an 18-year affiliation with Concord Mall in Wilmington, Del. However, in this new economy, no one's job is safe including Santa's.
Despite a five-year option on their contract, the Clauses were told that they were being replaced. This was only nine days before the start of the 2011 Christmas season. Like so many others, they scrambled to look for another job and were finally hired at Jersey Garden Mall in Elizabeth, New Jersey.
"We have an awful lot of friends who visited us over the years at Concord Mall," said Santa A., and many of them have followed the Clauses to the Lehigh Valley. In fact, some of their first visitors this year on "Black Friday" morning drove from Newark and Dover, Del. and Elkton, Md.
Along with the "Real Mr. and Mrs. Santa A. Claus," their reindeer have also made the move to the Lehigh Valley. They have found their home away from the North Pole at Z Arch Barn Farm an upstart Christmas tree farm in Forks Township. Santa's reindeer can be visited free of charge this Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to dusk.
For more information about Santa's reindeer, visit www.Facebook.com/ZArchBarnFarm or call Vince the Reindeer Keeper at (610-) 253-4405.
Additional information about the "Real Mr. and Mrs. Santa A. Claus" and their busy Christmas season schedule can be found at www.Santa-A-Claus.com or by calling (908) 872-0987.