Mr. and Mrs. Santa (Wes and Mary Brist of Broadland) wear the outfits she made to help spread Christmas joy. The couple will be visiting children Friday from 5 to 7 p.m. at Taco John’s, and collecting nonperishable food items for the Helping Hands Thrift Shop pantry. In the next photo, Mrs. Santa stands by the Santa’s Workshop sign at their home. PHOTOS BY KARA GUTORMSON/PLAINSMAN
For 11 years now, Wes and Mary Brist,of Broadland have embodied the Christmas spirit as they dress up as Mr. and Mrs. Santa. The couple has not only brought joy and laughter to many children and parents throughout the region, but touched their hearts as well.
Mr. and Mrs. Santa will be making their annual appearance at Taco Johns on Friday from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. This year, they have a mission to help those in need. “We are asking that everyone bring a nonperishable food item to help stock the Helping Hands food pantry,” said Wes.
The couple does their best to rekindle belief in Santa, even for those who claim he doesn’t exist. “Unfortunately, after a certain age, we get to the point where we don’t want to believe in fantasy,” said Mary. In her role as Mrs. Santa, Mary has had the opportunity to see belief come back into eyes of the parents. “They watch what we do, and all of a sudden they’re playing their part,” she said.
They do their homework for their appearances, which helps in creating the world of fantasy. The questions they answer range from elves, the North Pole, reindeer, or that list of children who have been naughty or nice — whatever it is that the kids want to know, Mr. and Mrs. Santa have to be prepared. “If we don’t make sure to watch the most current Santa movies, we will get questions that are pretty hard to answer in the way the kids would expect us to,” said Mary.
To find out who has been naughty or nice, Santa does still check his long list of names.
“Bernard, the head elf, reads the list and then Santa reads it,” said Mary. “That’s where the checking it twice part comes in,” she said, with a twinkle in her eye.
Wes and Mary have long since realized that their portrayal of Mr. and Mrs. Santa is the role of a lifetime. “We look forward to this all year,” said Wes.
This rich Christmas tradition of Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus came about through the aftermath of a family tragedy: the death of their son, Ben.
“In 1999, my husband and I lost Ben in a very bad car accident,” said Mary. “It was the day before his 20th birthday.”
Mary, who had been working at Taco John’s, took a year off work to cope with the grief of losing her son. Tired of grieving and yearning for some Christmas cheer in what was the family’s first Christmas without their son, Mary contacted her former boss, Kelli Salter, with an idea.
“I told her we needed to do something special for Christmas this year, to help people get back into the spirit of Christmas.”
Salter agreed, but said she didn’t know where they were going to find a Santa on such late notice. It was then that Mary came up with the idea to dress up as Mrs. Santa.
So, she sewed her own Mrs. Santa suit, and appeared at Taco John’s in Huron to spread the Christmas message, by visiting with children and taking pictures with families.
“There was a lot of healing in that first experience,” she said. “And it felt like I was carrying on a part of my son. He was such a joyful person.”
This tradition has stayed alive every year since then, and in 2001, Wes joined in as Santa Claus. Santa Claus lets the children sit on his lap, listens to their gift requests and answers questions. Mrs. Santa usually reads a story — usually the classic ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas. “To see the kids’ eyes just light up in awe, that’s the best part of it for us,” said Wes.
The Brists, although they carry on the tradition of Santa, are true believers that Jesus is the reason for the season.
“You can look at the Christmas season as covering both aspects of Santa and the Good Lord,” said Wes. “The birth of Jesus, that’s the real celebration of Christmas. But we also have Santa, who brings gifts, to remind us of the shepherds who brought gifts to baby Jesus.”
“It’s would not be Christmas without Jesus,” added Mary.
The couple also does appearances for hire. If interested in having Mr. and Mrs. Santa visit your home, call Wes or Mary at 352-5762. Or stop by Taco John’s on Friday from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. to see them at work, spreading the joy of the season. For the complete article see the 12-02-2012 issue.
Click here to purchase an electronic version of the 12-02-2012 paper.