It’s the perfect time of year for a wedding, and what better place for Santa to get married than North Pole, where it’s Christmas even in May.
A bus bound for the Santa Claus House pulled into North Pole Wednesday evening with Santas and Mrs. Clauses inside. Some came to renew wedding vows, while one couple would be married inside just minutes after arriving.
“Merry Christmas! Only 223 days until Christmas!” called one man exiting the bus.
The guests were greeted by Paul Brown, operations manager at the Santa Claus House.
“It’s always exciting to see so many of Santa’s helpers come visit him here at his house in North Pole, Alaska,” Brown said.
The group was in town for a Princess Cruise. “Santa Cruise” takes place every year, but this will be the third year coming to Alaska.
Clad in red, white and green, everyone traveled inside, where they gathered for the ceremonies. The Rev. John, of Florida, stood before the crowd in a red suit.
“I am an ordained minister and I am also Santa Claus,” he said, glasses gleaming under the Santa Claus House lights.
Under his direction, couples faced each other and held hands, reaffirming their vows of love, then sharing a kiss.
But not all was through, because Lori Ventimiglia Taylor was waiting in a white dress to marry the man officiating the vow renewals.
“This is what we’ve been dreaming of doing,” she said, following the ceremony. “So it’s a dream come true.”
Thus far, the new Mrs. Claus has been “having a blast” in Alaska, which she said is magnificent. While in town on Wednesday, the group visited Gold Dredge No. 8 and the Riverboat Discovery, before coming to North Pole in the evening for the wedding.
“I’m loving it. I’m thinking ‘I’m in my Hallmark movie,’” she said. “It’s like my summer Christmas Hallmark movie.”
One of the nice things about visiting North Pole, according to Santa Tim Connaghan, who organized the trip for his International School for Santas, is that they can find things at the Santa Claus House that aren’t available anywhere else.
“The inside thing about Santas is we do like to shop,” he said.
Connaghan, who works with Toys for Tots, has been running the International School for Santas, from which the attending Santas and several more will be graduating following the cruise. The courses involve more than milk and cookies; the school goes over grooming, wardrobe and how to answer children who may ask difficult questions.
“Our No. 1 rule is we’re there for the children,” he said. “The No. 2 rule: check rule No. 1.”
Of course, a crowd of Santas can draw the eye.
Santa John Beam, from Florida, is part of Santa Claus Drill Team, a “not precision” drill team that performs patriotic presentations. He said when all the Santas travel in large groups for the fellowship of it, kids will often have questions about seeing many of them.
“We tell them that the real Santa is here,” he said, “and that, if they would, go around and ask questions and try to figure out who the real Santa is.”
A testament to the determination of children, there has not been a child yet who hasn’t found the real Santa among them.
And young or old, Santa is there for the smiles. Santa Dennis Hoffman, who is also a member of the Santa Claus Drill Team, said they collect them.
“We love collecting smiles,” he said. “We do that with our routines, we do that in our parades.”
Both men will graduate from the School of Santas on this cruise and it won’t be the first time for either of them, who agreed they learn new things every year.
“This is polishing the craft,” Santa Dennis said.
Those interested in adding to the ranks of Santa’s helpers can visit schoolforsantas.com.
Contact staff writer Kyrie Long at 459-7572.