Local Santa bringing joy to the Yakima Valley for 50 years
YAKIMA VALLEY, Wash. - We have a local Santa Claus right here in the Yakima Valley, who has been visiting children on Christmas Eve for 50 years now.
Local Santa Jack Gaudette said he's heard it all over the years, from kids asking for ponies for Christmas to how Rudolph is doing at the North Pole.
"Getting asked all type of questions, what you're feeding reindeer and where are they and how do you teach them to fly," said Gaudette.
He has been putting on the red suit and jingle bells on Christmas Eve for 50 years. It started when he was just 13, when his brother Jim tricked him into dressing up as Santa in 1968.
Now he's met around 10,000 kids in the Yakima Valley as Santa, and said he continues to do it to every year for the smiles.
"It's the joy, it's the fun I get," he said. "You should be sitting where I'm sitting when those kids eyes turn into like saucers and the excitement is just going and they're screaming and squealing and dancing around like they're having a fit."
Gaudette is not a commercial Santa and said you won't find him at the mall or any office parties, because he is a home visit Santa who visits with families on Christmas Eve night.
He said as a child, Santa visited his home when he was five years old and said the personal visit sticks with you.
However, a few years back he got sick and almost didn't make it to 50 years as Santa Claus.
"Leukemia tried to get me a couple years ago and just about brought Santa down," Gaudette said. "No, I'll go forever."
Some dress up as Santa Claus for a few years and pass the red suit on to the next person but Gaudette said he is a lifer and plans on ho ho hoing for many more years to come.
Gaudette said he has slowed down his Santa acts but he will still visit about six houses in the Yakima Valley this Christmas Eve night.