Depending upon where one lives, Mother Nature gives us several seasons. In some areas the traditional summer, fall, winter, spring combination is dominant. Southern California where I now live has fire, wind, rain, drought, and earthquake seasons in no specific order and with some overlapping with others. For ten years I lived in Arizona with two main seasons known as hot and hotter. Occasionally hottest was tossed into the mix just for fun. Add to that the summer monsoons and one could make a case for the sauna season.
I once made the mistake of visiting Alaska during the mosquito season. I guess I could have visited during freeze my ass off season. Several airports in the winter have ice on the runway season. It has been a while since I lived in Texas, but I remember as a kid melted asphalt season.
I used to hunt in snake season, fish in rough water season, camp in the no fires season, and hike in the bad weather season. Rarely did I match the right season with the activity I was engaged in.
Now I divide the year into two major seasons. There is the Santa season from October 1 through December 31. The rest of the year is devoted to the Annual Wild Game Feed season. Yes, there are a few minor seasons within seasons such as Thanksgiving season, Christmas season, my wife’s birthday season, our anniversary season, and a couple of other seasons, but for most of my purposes, the year is divided into just two parts.
The Santa season is actually the entire year since I look like the guy the entire year, but my most active roles as Santa usually start somewhere around October 1. That’s the date when I start bleaching my gray/white hair to be predominantly white, and I do it every two to three weeks until December 31. After that I bleach it at about six week intervals unless some film or television roll calls me. (I tend to get a few of these every year.) But for the most part, the Santa look never goes away.
The red suits have seen many battles over the years. I’ve replaced them as needed, and I’m thinking the ones I have now need to be retired. For three months each year thousands of kids, adults, and other critters sit on my lap. Most are good customers, but occasionally the red suit gets damaged by candy canes, damp diapers, cell phones in back pockets, and spilled drinks. I have a great dry cleaner, but even he scratches his head in puzzlement over some of the stains.
Last year was a slow year due to my own illness and recovery in November and December. Five days in the hospital cut into the numbers some, but I estimate I still managed to visit with over six thousand children and adults. And no, that wasn’t from working a mall. I do several public events each year such as tree lightings, and various city events, but the bulk of my season is spent in charity fundraisers, private parties with corporations, and in the homes of many people just wanting to give their children and families a unique experience.
Many of these events and parties have asked for my return year after year, and I have had the joy of watching numbers of children grow into adulthood. Now these children are having me as Santa for their children. I love my job.
The Annual Wild Game Season I count as a year around season also, but the simple fact is, I’m too busy from October through December to give much thought to it. However, every year I wake up on the morning of January 1st thinking about the Feed, and it doesn’t stop until I put on the red suit again in October. For the eight and one-half months from January 1 to the day of the Feed, I will spend countless hours answering questions everyone has about the Feed. I even wrote a list of FAQ’s to help with the answers, but the questions haven’t slowed down. I love my job (even though I’m not a Feed member, and I’m definitely not paid to do this).
The Annual Wild Game Feed is a charity fund raiser event where I don’t have to be Santa, although on occasion some 300 pound guy with moose breath enhanced by beer and cigar smoke wants to sit on my lap and remind me I didn’t bring him his dream car last year. (Believe me, there are down sides to looking like Santa.) Other than that I will continue to promote this event because of the unselfish giving nature of the members of the Feed.
If you have been to this hootenanny, then you know the fun some 1,500 men from all arenas of life can have eating, drinking, smoking, competing, and just hanging out together. There is nothing quite like it anywhere I’ve ever traveled. And don’t forget, Santa travels a lot of places.
I’ve heard guys lament over the shortness of the event, and indeed it is short. The gates open at noon and by 7pm virtually everyone other than AWGF members are gone. But there are ways of stretching this out a bit. I know a few guys who meet for an early morning breakfast, then go to the Feed and make the waiting line into a party. Some guys start the night before with a dinner gathering. Basically they are making the party last a little longer by getting creative. I like this.
I’ve simply stretched it into a season by writing about it year around, emailing with some distant friends about it, rounding up a herd of cigars to bring to the Feed, and helping people with their questions about it. A couple of times each year I meet with some guys at a restaurant and have a long afternoon lunch. We talk about the Feed, but mostly we are just friends because of the Feed. I guess my stretching of the Feed season wasn’t done completely by myself, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is the enjoyment of the season. Otherwise it becomes a very long wait.