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Kim Winnegge, Published December 25 2008

One of ‘the greatest jobs’

Turn as the man in red rewarding year after year

Bob Scott begins to grow his beard in July.

As the weather turns from sunny to windy to snowy, Scott keeps his beard in check because he knows something special is on its way.

For the past five years, Scott has donned “the reds” of Santa Claus at Rheault Farm’s Santa Village in Fargo, 2902 25th St. S.

His job consists of sitting in a cozy chair as hundreds of children whisper in his ear what they want for Christmas.

Scott said the children usually nod emphatically when asked, “Have you been nice this year?”

Every year, he gets some tear-jerking letters or wishes, asking for hope for a dying mother or food for an empty pantry.

“There was nothing I could do,” he said. “Your hands are tied.”

Santa’s lap becomes a confessional booth of sorts, but Scott said it’s been a wild ride the whole time.

He has heard the holiday wishes from 65-year-old men. He’s held infants for their first holiday picture. And he held his 4-day-old niece in front of a roaring fireplace when his relatives begged him to put on “the reds” and come over.

“They took pictures like you would not believe,” Scott said. “They used it as a birth announcement and a Christmas card, saying, ‘Look what Santa brought us for Christmas.’

“You get these kids that come in and they’re all manners. That’s the neat part,” Scott said. “Nice and polite as you can be.”

For his “wife,” Mrs. Claus – better known in Fargo as Bev Lee – ushering the children in to see her ho-ho-husband is one of the best parts of her day.

“To see the smiles on their faces when I convince them to come back here,” Lee said, “it’s just a warming feeling.”

For volunteer elves Laura “Joy” Gonshorowski and Elisabeth “Eve” Hanson, Mrs. Claus’ cooking is one of the delicious perks of the job.

Lee said she brings treats such as apple crisp and caramel corn to keep the elves happy.

For giggling Joy and Eve, the warming food seems to be working.

“She bakes for the elves all the time. We eat delicious food,” Eve said.

Lee said it’s all about making people feel at home in Santa’s house.

“It is like our house,” Lee said, adding that she decorates the home with garland and lights.

The pair put in about 150 hours a year volunteering for the Santa Village.

It’s a lot for the warmth and happiness of children, but it’s worth every minute, Scott said.

“This is one of the greatest jobs on Earth,” he said.

When Scott shaves his beard off after the holidays, he said it’s the end of a season.

“You miss that warmth.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Kim Winnegge at (701) 241-5524