WESTON, Mo. - He laughs with a working-man’s chuckle instead of a hearty “Ho ho ho!” But his outfit does start with a red sweater, green pants and heavy winter hat and coat, and sleigh bells jingle when he walks.
Don’t call him Santa Claus -- that guy's at the mall. If you want to spend some quality time with Father Christmas, head to Weston.
"You go to the mall and it's usually, 'What do you want for Christmas, little boy?' 'What do you want for Christmas, little girl?' and then that's the end of the story,” he said.
Walking Main Street and spending some time with people is what Father Christmas loves about the job. His regular-guy name is Tom Hooper. He stepped up to play Weston's Santa 25 years ago. He has more trinkets in his bag now and relies on the staff a little more. But the twinkle in his eye still draws crowds.
Diana Lee visited Weston from Iowa on some friends’ suggestion. She stopped in her tracks just to snap his photo.
"He's just unusual, just awesome,” Lee said. “I love his cane and his hat. He's just really neat."
Weston’s economy relies on Christmas business. People come from all over to shop here, and many say they come just to meet Father Christmas. The Chamber of Commerce sponsors the holiday celebration and couldn't be more excited.
"He embodies the spirit of Christmas,” said Patrick Egan, secretary of the Weston Chamber of Commerce. “He embodies the spirit of Weston. He's Mister Weston."
He mostly meets adults, but does come across his share of momentarily-confused kids.
"I had one little boy grab my beard, of course not knowing that it was a real beard," Hooper said.
No matter how old, it seems everyone wants -- or even needs -- to believe in him.
"I've had people cry. I've had people laugh,” Hooper said. “They tell me when they make a wish. One lady said that she made a wish that she would have a little baby girl. Well, she came back and she did. She had a little baby girl.”
Whatever the reaction, he still makes everyone believe.
Weston's Christmas celebration kicks off this Saturday with a children's parade at 5:30 p.m. and tree lighting at 6 p.m. Father Christmas will be in town every weekend until Christmas.
Get more details on the Weston Chamber of Commerce website at www.westonmo.com
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