Sequim brims with Christmas spirit, so it’s no surprise that Saint Nick would call the area home.
The catch is, he’s not alone.
Over the years, at least seven locals donned the red-and-white garb for various causes. We reached out to each Santa for his take on Christmas and what it’s meant to them to become the iconic character:
It was 10 years ago when Joe Borden, a retired U.S. Army veteran, starred as Santa for the City of Sequim, following the late-Walt Schubert.
“I played Santa every year for 10 years for the city and for the museum, Captain Joseph House and a few individual houses,” Borden said.
“In 10 years, I probably played him a couple hundred times.”
Borden said he continues the role on a limited basis now following a minor medical incident as he’s trying to be careful in what he does now.
“(Being Santa) is something I’m very proud of,” he said.
“When looking at the little ones and they look at me, I can see in their eyes that they believe. Giving them that memory of seeing Santa from something I’m doing is an honor to me.”
Borden’s wife Tawana has also portrayed Mrs. Claus, he said, and the couple loves Christmas.
“I really hate that I’m not able to do it anymore,” he said. “Maybe if I get stronger I can do it again. It’s just difficult right now. I love doing it and making it happen and consider it a privilege and an honor.”
Becoming Santa started for John Brygider, a Clallam County Fire District 3 facility technician and volunteer firefighter, when his first grandchild was born 13 years ago.
“My wife bought me a Santa Claus costume, and I’ve done it for a few other people and Faith Lutheran Preschool.”
It became an annual outing for him in 2013 with the district’s Santa’s Toy and Food Fire Brigade, a partnership between Clallam County Fire District 3, Explorer Post 1003 and IAFF Local 2933.
“The Santa Brigade has been going since 2008 and it’s our way of giving back,” he said.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Santa and volunteers would ride and follow the district’s 1939 Ford fire engine collecting gifts and food for the community. The last two years they’ve spent a few nights in a row at the Sequim Village Shopping Center instead. Brygider misses driving through the city.
“I like seeing older people waving at their doors, and I’ll run up and give hugs, candy canes, whatever,” he said. “I’ve danced with some of the older ladies. It just gives joy back into the world.”
One year, a boy and his family tried to find the fire engine in the city, Brygider said, and he gave Santa a letter. He and Capt. Marc Lawson, co-organizer of the event, read the letter, learned the family was having a hardship and they decided to buy some of the toys on his list.
“We delivered them with Santa in the fire truck,” Brygider said.
His first appearance as Santa was the most memorable so far, says Rich Hendricksen, a retired planning director. In 1998 he was asked to be Santa for the Sequim-Dungeness Chamber of Commerce’s holiday event at the former Bank of America Park.
“It was my first year in Sequim as planning director (for the city) and (organizers) asked if I’d be Santa,” he said.
He made his entrance in the sidecar of a motorcycle and even made it into the Gazette.
Since then he’s portrayed Santa, Father Christmas for Olympic Theatre Arts and recently Old Man Winter for OTA at the Sequim Farmers and Artisans Market on Dec. 18.
Hendricksen has played Santa about eight times over 20 years, he said.
His recent costume came from a combination of Port Angeles Community Players, Marissa Meek, and the former Sequim Presbyterian Church after it stopped its Boar’s Head Festival and donated costumes to OTA.
Acting as Santa came a few years before Hendricksen took the stage in 2001, he said. Over the years, he’s acted for both OTA and the Port Angeles Players, and became an active volunteer with KSQM and Sequim Kiwanis.
“The first time was totally unexpected and it was very impromptu,” he said. “It’s become a chance to meet and get to know people.”
For about six years Mac Macdonald, a corporate trainer, speaker, actor and author, has called Sequim home, and he’s donned the moniker Mr. Claus many times.
He said his father, the former superintendent of Parks and Recreation for the city of San Francisco and later Las Vegas, created the show he performs as Santa.
“He died when I was 18 (Macdonald is 73 now). There was the suit, and there were the people and organizations that wanted the program, and that’s how long I have been jangling sleigh bells,” he said. “I wore my dad’s suit until it and the beard wore out. I still have them. They still smell like him, which is profound and gives me power.”
On average, he performs as Santa about 20 times a year each December to raise funds for a charity as payment.
“(I like) the look of unbridled wonder and joy in kids’ faces, and the turning of adults into kids again,” Macdonald said.
He’s encountered many memorable moments, including his beard falling off mid-performance, another time his pants fell down and he didn’t notice it due to the padding, and another time he forgot the padding.
“I had to stuff a whole bunch of children’s coats up under the suit (and) during the performance, out they fell, one-by-one, a particular lime green one that the little girl in the front row owned,” he said.
Some of his favorite moments include playing with orchestras and choirs and with the Geoffrey Castle Celtic Christmas shows.
Maybe you’ve gotten a candy cane for being nice from Don McIntyre, or even a piece of coal for being naughty. Either way, being Santa is something McIntyre said he takes very seriously. He’s been doing it for 50-plus years.
There are two reasons why he keeps doing it: “The joy when people see Santa,” and “working for Toys for Tots.”
“It’s the kids and the amazing reaction you get when you hand out a candy cane,” he said.
And the coal? “Absolutely,” McIntyre said.
He’s been an advocate for the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve’s Toys for Tots for decades reminding people, “Don’t forget the cookies (preferably oatmeal with walnuts and cranberries).”
McIntyre was an orphan, and his passion to help children may have started there followed by orders from his marine sergeant at age 18 to play Santa.
Of his recent memories as Santa, McIntyre said he drove by a Port Townsend facility for adults with developmental disabilities a few years ago and saw a lot of people looking through the window.
“I stopped and went in and had a great time,” he said. “I walked out of there and felt it was my best experience ever as Santa.”
McIntyre, who retired from hospital equipment purchasing and owning a rental store, started the Santa tradition in Federal Way and continued it with help from his wife Sharlene.
He’s gone out as Santa, in one of five suits depending on weather, every day since Dec. 1 promoting Toys for Toys this year.
When no one else wanted to be jolly old Saint Nick, Stephen Rosales stepped up in the Texas Senate 20-plus years ago.
“I had to rent the suit then, and now I own three Santa suits,” he said.
Rosales, a volunteer for many organizations over the years including the Sequim Boys & Girls Club and Sequim Food Bank, moved to Sequim with his wife Kim and daughters Elizabeth and Ashley after retiring.
When he started being Santa, Rosales joked that his own children wouldn’t sit on his lap.
This year, he’s made appearances as Santa for Home Town Holidays, his wife’s Great Futures Preschool, and at the 7 Cedars Resort.
One time, a girl hand delivered a letter to Santa with a stamp and envelope that really made an impact with him, he said.
“It’s good feeling that excitement of seeing Santa,” he said. “We need a lot of laughter now.”
As for what keeps him doing it, he said it’s all about “the excitement of the kids and making them smile.”
School bus driver George Stuber started his Santa days in 1995 after his dispatcher Charlie Bolman contacted him.
“He wasn’t able to (be Santa for the city),” Stuber said. “He was working with me to play Santa to get the ‘Ho Ho Ho’ down, and I did it for the City of Sequim for three years.”
Then it grew into home visits, going to day cares and office parties.
“It’s been so wonderful and then the pandemic hit,” he said she he wasn’t able to portray Santa at First Teacher’s annual Breakfast With Santa event.
Stuber started doing that in 1997 and so far this year he’s gone out as Santa four times, including at the Festival of Trees.
Early on, he remembers being at Carrie Blake Community Park and a child he knew approached him.
“The child came up to me and looked me in the eyes and kept staring at me,” Stuber said.
“He said, ‘You are the real Santa. I knew you were real.’ I also said their name because they had ridden my bus. It was so awesome to see them light up.
“That’s why I do it, to see the kids light up.”