Santa visits Bedford

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Was here for lighting at Elks National Home on Friday.

By John Barnhart

    Santa Claus stopped by the Bedford Bulletin, Friday, and picked up some back issues. Perhaps he was looking for names to add to his “Naughty” or “Nice” list. The Bulletin’s pages certainly had a number of people fitting both categories over the past year.

    He doesn’t live at the North Pole, however. Most of the year he lives in Grand Island, Neb., and goes by the name of Dale Nielson. He’s an Elk and comes to Bedford every year for the Christmas Lighting at the Elks National Home.
    Nebraska may not be the North Pole, but it’s cold up there. Nielson said it was 10 degrees, with light snow, when he and his wife, otherwise known as Mrs. Claus, left to come here.
    “We come down here to warm up,” he said, with a jolly laugh.
    The last time he was here, he got stopped by the police. He was on his way back to his hotel in Roanoke, in his Santa Claus clothes, when he encountered a sobriety check. Santa Claus does not drink on duty, so he was fine and the police officer was quite surprised to see who was at the wheel when he walked up to the car. He called for one of the other officers to come over, and bring a camera. “My kids will never believe this,” the officer commented.
    “We have a lot of fun wherever we go,” he said, adding that the Elks do not pay for this visit. He and his wife do it at their own expense.
    Nielson has taken classes from the International University of Santa Claus. This organization holds week-long seminars on being Santa Claus.
    “They tell you a lot of do’s and don’ts,” he said.
    “You don’t smoke, you don’t drink and you don’t eat beans,” he said, giving an example. All of these have to do with bad smells. The smell of smoke would get on Santa’s clothes and beard. Alcohol would show up on his breath. The reason to avoid beans is obvious.
    The organization is indeed international. It holds an international convention in Copenhagen, Denmark, every year and this event draws Santa Claus impersonators from all over the world, as well as Grandfather Frost impersonators from Russia. In Russia, Grandfather Frost, assisted by his granddaughter, Snegurochka, brings good Russian children gifts on New Year’s eve.
    The Santa Claus international convention is held on the third weekend of July.
    “We go out to the Bakken theme park and entertain kids,” Nielson said.