Behind the beard: What it takes to be Santa Claus in Steamboat |

Behind the beard: What it takes to be Santa Claus in Steamboat

Alivia Nunham, 6, tells Santa what she wants for Christmas while her four-year-old sister, Taylor, tries to hide her excitement during the “Light up the Night” celebration in downtown Steamboat Springs. (File photo)

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Santa is the guy whom many children entrust with their hopes, dreams and wishes.

The jolly man in the red suit, contrary to popular belief, isn’t just about the presents.

“I take the role very seriously,” said Brad Kindered, who is known as Mainstreet Steamboat Springs’ Santa, who takes up residence in the Santa Hut on weekends downtown and can be seen parading through Gondola Square on horseback Sunday for Steamboat Resort’s Holiday Festival.

“I wish I was magic and could grant all of their wishes,” he said. “The best I can do, though, is provide a sympathetic ear.”

The first time he was asked to be Kris Kringle was in the early 1980s, and he rode in a fire truck, passing out candy as he went down Lincoln Avenue for the downtown Christmas Parade. Another year, he was asked to be Santa for an event at the Chief Theater.

“At first, I was reluctant to be the man in the red suit, then I realized that I do generally look like a happy, jolly guy — the type-cast for Santa. I just learned to embrace my inner Santa,” Kindered said.

While some Santas become known for booming laughs or their clever banter, Kindered earned a reputation as an especially charming and well-mannered soul.

His favorite thing about being Santa?

“It’s the kids,” he said. “I do this for the kids. There’s no other place I would rather be for Christmas.”

One of the more interesting things he experiences as Saint Nick are the requests, which he said can be surprising.

“I had a fervent young girl who slipped me a note and just looked at me with these big blue eyes, and her note said, ‘Dear Santa, the one thing I want — I will never ask for anything ever again if I can just have this — to fly. Even if it’s just three to four feet, that’s all I wish for Christmas.’”

Other requests, however, can be heart breaking.

“I had a few kids tell me, ‘All I want is for mommy to come home from prison,’” he said. “’I hope so too’ is what I respond to them. All I can do is have empathy with the child.

“I let the kids speak mostly,” Kindered said. “You would be surprised by how many kids ask for world peace and kindness for their parents and family. There are some pretty remarkable kids in this community.”

For the last three years during the holidays, Kindered said he sees about 100 kids each Saturday downtown, and this weekend, he saw upwards of 500 kids. He also plays the role commercially and professionally for Yampa Valley Autism Program, the Foundry and more.

For Kindered, there is a bit of magic during the holidays.

“It is a special time of year that people are looking for some kind of hope or new energy,” he said. “I believe in human connection, and when you make that connection, there’s a magic in that. No matter how small of a connection, it has a ripple effect.”

To reach Audrey Dwyer, call 970-871-4229, email or follow her on Twitter @Audrey_Dwyer1.

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