Tuesday, June 2, 2020
Santa and Mrs. Claus marvel at his magical timepiece after entertaining children during the Cocoa with Santa event held last Saturday at the Owatonna Arts Center.

Cocoa, cookies, Kris Kringle, and cheer

Owatonna Arts Center hosts annual Cocoa with Santa

The magic of the holiday season can bring joy to the hearts of people of all ages.

For more than 20 years the Owatonna Arts Center has whipped up its own version of that classic Christmas cheer by inviting Santa and the Missus to take part in a Saturday of cocoa, carols, and cookies.

With Mrs. Claus performing holiday standards and the jolly old St. Nick decked out in red and sporting a white mane, the Arts Center was alive with Christmas spirit. “Everything about Christmas,” Santa said when asked his favorite part of the festive holiday.

While he looks the part each and every year, Santa did admit to shaving down the beard some during the offseason. “I take it down to half an inch or less,” he revealed.

Although he exhibits that classic Santa jolliness, he still finds a few children who get intimidated when in the presence of the big man himself. “I had a few today,” he said. “They’d come back and forth and that’s when I get my magic clock out.” When Santa opens the timepiece, it comes alive with the happenings of the north pole.

Mrs. Claus shares his love of the holiday, revealing that one of her favorite activities is visiting with all of the children. “Actually, this is one of my favorite parts because it’s as romantic, and special, and heartwarming as it can be. You can’t beat it,” she said.

She loves playing the piano for all of the guests who come in, and Santa will even do his best by helping to sing along. “Back in my high school days, I was the accompanist for the choir and ensemble,” Mrs. Claus explained before recalling that, oddly enough, she happened to have graduated from Blooming Prairie before taking up residence at the North Pole.

Along with the music, Mrs. Claus also reads a Christmas story to the children in attendance. “All of the children have their favorite books, and they look forward to that,” she said. This year’s story was “A Christmas for Bears” from “My Christmas Treasury,” a collection of holiday stories.

With the Arts Center playing host, Mrs. Claus felt that it was the perfect venue to warm hearts and spread some Christmas joy. “Maybe because it was a home, an orphanage for many years, that in many ways it still is like a home,” she said.

Creative Director Silvan Durben explained that the event used to be breakfast with Santa before they changed it to its current iteration. “We invite all ages of people to come and bring their wishes forth to Santa,” he said.

“People come in and you see their faces light up, and not just the children but the parents and grandparents too,” he said. “It’s a magical time of year.”

Durben and his staff had the entire Arts Center decked out for the holidays, with trees, and decorations, and an exhibit of old holiday toys. “We try to create a magical environment and the thing that’s so wonderful is all of this comes together almost like a miracle,” he said.

Like Santa and the Missus, Durben marks Christmas as his favorite holiday. “It’s that time of year when we all come together and get soft and warm hearted.”


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