Above: Dion “Santa Dee” Sinclair poses with two of his children, from left, Amber Sinclair Watts and Gianna Sinclair, in a family photo. SPECIAL
Joe “Santa Jeaux” Pridgen, 70, Buford
Santa Claus since: The mid ‘70s, full-time since 2011. Northern Lights Santa Academy alumnus and guest instructor of “marketing, storytelling, improvisation and how to answer questions.” Holds a PhD from the International University of Santa Claus. Former church choir director. Georgia Tech grad. General building contractor.
Side note: He celebrates his 50th wedding anniversary on Dec. 28 with his wife Rebecca, an art teacher at the Roswell Senior Center. “We tell everybody it’s our 450th anniversary, because this Santa adds 400 years to everything.”
Most unusual gift request: Last year, a Sugar Hill family didn’t celebrate Christmas, too broken up over the death of their six-year-old son who was born with medical issues. This year, his little brother wants Santa to bring him a puppy, a collar and a bowl of water for Christmas. He didn’t just ask for a puppy. He wanted Santa to bring it. Santa Jeaux volunteered to make the delivery, an early one, in November.
When he’s not working, he’s: “Usually watching the Hallmark movie channel. I have found that most Santas are saps. We love a good Christmas movie. A couple of my friends said I need to turn in my man card.”
Scheduled public appearances:
- Monday, Dec. 10, 7 p.m. — Gwinnett Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, Infinite Energy Center. He’ll be part of “The Light of Christmas” performance, and be available for pictures before and after the show. 6400 Sugarloaf Parkway, Duluth. Info: gwinnettsymphony.org.
- Thursday, Dec. 15, 10 a.m. to noon — The city of Duluth’s Cookies & Cocoa with Santa, Red Clay Music Foundry, 3116 Main Street, Duluth. Info: duluthga.net/community.
- Friday, Dec. 23, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The Mill Kitchen and Bar in Roswell, 590 Mimosa Boulevard, Roswell. Info: themillkitchenandbar.com.
Dion “Santa Dee” Sinclair, 54, Conyers area
Santa Claus since: 2001.His company’s website, the therealblacksanta.com, says he grew up on the south side of the North Pole and lists two numbers to reach him on: “Studio” and “Sleigh.” Holds an Advanced Master of Santa Clausology from the International School of Santa Claus. Volunteers with his church pantry several days a week.
Why he became a Santa: For the money, at first.“I was an insurance salesman years ago, and I was renewing my license, and the gentleman that was doing the insurance class was a Santa Claus. His phone just kept ringing. I asked him a question, ‘Is there a good income being Santa Claus?’ This was in May and he seemed extremely busy. He told me that previous season he made $28,000 as Santa Claus. He said black Santas are in demand. I let my gray beard grow out. I’m still doing the job and loving it intensely. I wouldn’t even call it a job. I think it’s the best thing I can do in life other than work for Christ.”
Side note: His Mrs. Claus is his 75-year-old mother, Veronica Brown. She’s been to Santa School as well. His wife doesn’t want to be in front of the camera. She handles the business.
Favorite Santa memory: An autistic boy who’s now about 11 years old who’s been coming to him since he was six months old. “I’m no longer a mall Santa. I started doing event centers, and it was hard to coordinate schedules with his mother. So, for the past two years, I’ve done home visits for him, just because he’s my favorite.”
Most unusual request: “It was 2012 and we were at Underground Atlanta and I had a young man about 10 or 11 years old that came in with his uncle. His request was that he wanted his Dad back. His Dad had passed away. He was in a car chase with the police and crashed and died on the young man’s birthday. It still bothers me because I didn’t know how to respond to it then. At the time, I said, ‘I’ll see what I can do.’ To this day, I’m still bewildered on that.”
When he’s not being Santa, he’s: “Ubering or Lyfting, I’m in the gym or riding my bike. I’m very active. … My theory on life is you don’t have to be fat to be jolly.”
Scheduled public appearance:
- Saturday, Dec. 15, 2-5 p.m. Christmas Hope for the Holidays. Santa Dee will appear for three hours at the daylong church event. Families from the community will pick up toys reserved for them. Discover Point Church, 1605 Ga. Hwy. 183, Conyers. Info: discoverpointchurch.com.
Larry “Santa Magic” Talbert, 54, Lawrenceville
Santa Claus since: 2016. A graduate and guest instructor of Northern Lights Santa Academy. Produced an award-winning book, “’Twas the Night Before Christmas, a Magical Presentation,” that he sells with Santa Rick Rosenthal. The disappearing ink book is sold at his online store, santamagic.pro.
Why he’s a Santa: “When I was growing up, we always did big Christmases. I have five kids of my own. Our house looks like the Griswolds’ (of “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation”) once all the lights are up. I love kids. I’m a big kid at heart.”
A favorite Santa memory: “I was out buying pumpkins for Halloween. I had bleached my beard. I’m sitting there wearing a T-shirt and shorts and my kid’s sitting with me and I had forgotten what I look like. A little girl asked her mom if she could give me a hug. The mother said yes and was so excited. She said this was great, that her kids were going to be great for the next three or four weeks.”
Most unusual gift request: “One little boy in an audience asked me to make it snow. Right there on the spot, I did it, with two cups that appeared from nowhere, magically.”
Scheduled public appearances:
- Saturday, Dec. 8, 1-3 p.m. Atlanta Botanical Garden Gainesville, 1911 Sweetbay Drive, Gainesville. Info: atlantabg.org/gainesville-garden.
- Monday, Dec. 17, 5-8 p.m. Frida’s Mexican Restaurant, 706 Grayson Highway, Lawrenceville. Info: fridas-restaurant.com.
- Wednesday, Dec. 19, 5-8 p.m. Frida’s Mexican Cuisine, 405 Peachtree Parkway, Cumming. Info: fridas-mexicancuisine.com.
Do you want to be a great Santa Claus? Here’s a list of what Santa Rick Rosenthal says it takes. And yes, he checked it twice.
- Love: “You have to love people of all ages.”
- Acceptance: “Accept (almost) anything you hear. Santa’s a forgiving guy. People make mistakes. Things happen.”
- Ability to think on your feet: “You have to know how to respond to situations. You usually just have two minutes with people.”
- Economic awareness: “The big bucks are only at the North Pole. Everybody hears ‘Santas make great money,’ but that’s not true. Most make $5,000 to $15,000 a year at most. They usually supplement their pay with Social Security.”
- Sacrifice: “Time, emotions and money.”
- Education: “Constantly.”
- Encourage innocence and imagination: “So children of all ages can see there’s a bright world out there. If you have those two things, you can survive and thrive.”
- Stay current: “When somebody asks me for a widget, I may not know what it is, but I have to act like I know about it.”