Cooperstown Santa’s 2nd Home,
Saint Nick Reveals In New Book
•By JIM KEVLIN• The Freeman’s Journal
For years now, you’ve seen Santa Claus around town all year long, perhaps manning the information kiosk in Pioneer Park, volunteering at The Farmers’ Museum, or at one community event or another.
Kids noticed it, too, and it raised questions in their young minds, and that troubled Santa. “They know it’s me,” he said in an interview the other day.
The result, years in the making, is “Santa’s Second Home,” a tell-all book that reveals a never-before-told secret: Cooperstown has replaced the North Pole as the place where the Jolly Old Elf spends most of his time.
For centuries, the icy top of the world was indeed domicile to Santa and Mrs. Claus and their workshop, but “lately, there have been a lot of changes,” the new book relates.
First, the polar ice cap has been melting at “an alarming rate,” making it a less-inviting place than it used to be. Plus, with wooden toys being replaced by “the latest electronic gadgets,” Santa had to mechanize his shop, add robots and computers to streamline orders and production.
“At the same time, Mrs. Claus has been yearning for a little house of her own, away from the bustle of the workshop, where she can have a nice little garden to tend,” Santa writes.
So, like any normal couple, the Clauses began to look for a second home, (perhaps eventually a retirement one, although this isn’t mentioned specifically), that is not too hot or too cold, or too big or too small. Most important, there had to be children, “lots of children.” And lots of Christmas spirit.
And so they happened on Cooperstown, with its “beautiful wreaths, lights and decorated trees.”
Naturally, when the Clauses arrived in town, they joined the Cooperstown Community Christmas Committee, which had come up with the idea of building a little house in Pioneer Park where children could meet the new arrivals every Christmas season.
“It’s been many years now since the Clauses have been spending time away from the North Pole in their second home,” the book reports.
With things running smoothly at the workshop, the couple find less and less reason to return, which is why you – and village kids – can see them year’round: going to church, raking or mowing the lawn at their “Victorian gingerbread” brick home, boating in the summers.
After Christmas, Santa shaves his beard and Mrs. Claus puts his shorn whiskers in the back yard for birds to use in making their nests.
Over the years, the Clauses’ Christmas residence in Pioneer Park, where they arrive in a horse-drawn wagon the day after Thanksgiving, has become more and more popular, with grown children of local folks bringing the grandchildren from as far away as Phoenix, Ariz., to join youngsters from towns around the region in giving their Christmas lists in person to the jolly couple.
The Pioneer Park cabin, in fact, has become a centerpiece of all the Christmas ferment around here, from The Farmers’ Museum Candlelight Evening to Brewery Ommegang’s Belgian Christmas.
While it hasn’t happened lately, Christmas in Cooperstown – the village is always talking about “shoulder-season” tourism promotions – was once more heavily promoted as something special.
A decade ago, the Cooperstown Chamber of Commerce had a budget line to promote the holiday, former executive director Polly Renckens recalls, and launched such programs at discount Holly Dollars, decorated “Holly Trolleys” that toured people around to see the lights at the various Clark Foundation undertakings, and a Candlelight Stroll, where shops stayed open late and celebrants traversed Main Street in Victorian garb.
“It was a lot of stuff,” said Renckens, but it was a lot of fun. “Once it got organized, we kept in going and added a twist every year to keep people interested.”
The chamber would run TV spots promoting a Cooperstown Christmas. And Destination Otsego’s Deb Taylor, then county tourism director, remembers placing “All Malled Out?” ads in Albany-area newspapers, encouraging people to enjoy a less-commercialized holiday here.
“You need a catalyst,” Renckens said. Who knows? Maybe “Santa’s Second Home” will be just that.