Santa Claus has been preparing all year for Christmas Day, which is set to take place Monday amid a trans-continental sleigh ride.

Children need to be ready Christmas Eve to be sleeping in their beds when Santa comes, otherwise he will not be able to drop off any presents.

Now that the kids are bored of reading this article, we can get on with the real article and stop with the disguise.

Rex Carter has been one of Santa’s helpers in Black River Falls for 25 years, getting his start in 1992 after he was asked to be Santa for the Black River Memorial Hospital Christmas Tea.

“I wore the beard and it was just seeing the ‘mostly’ joy of the kids and the parents seeing their child,” Carter said about why he likes being Santa.

Over the last 25 years, Carter has made special appearances as Santa at the hospital, daycare center, library, banks and the Christkindl Festival.

As Santa, Carter has two rules when interacting with kids: don’t lie and also don’t promise them anything.

“First of all you can’t bald face lie to a child, but there is the little white lie,” Carter said

One of Carter’s favorite ‘white lies’ is when children ask him where his reindeer are, to which he says they are at a farm outside of town because he can’t trust the hunters.

“They will shoot anything,” Carter added with a smile. “So you have to stretch the truth a bit.”

Carter attributes his quick-witted personality to being a local actor in some plays.

“I was a member of the Falls Players and they didn’t have improv, but you did learn to perform and that is what you are doing. The child is the center, but you are also the center of attention,” Carter said.

Carter is also known to talk his way out of being placed in a hard spot by children including when asked if he is the real Santa. His response is always, “Well do I look like the real Santa?”

Carter said children will often fill in the blanks and move on, which is why he loves the innocence of the children that sit on his lap every year.

One time Carter went to someone’s house as Santa, and when he left the kids showed their true innocence.

“The next day when I came to work the grandmother said that after I had left, the kids went to the window and were looking for the reindeer leaving,” Carter said. “That is how innocent kids are.”

Carter becomes Santa every year because of the kids, but he said being Santa is also about the parents and getting a picture for them, which can be hard to do sometimes.

“Seeing Santa is a scary thing,” Carter said. “There are a lot of parents who come and don’t expect to be in the picture because at home they have prepared the child.”

Carter has noticed that having a bench next to Santa can help sometimes so the parents can sit with the child and act as a buffer.

Being scared sometimes also makes children forget their list completely. Carter has seen where kids will copy what the kid in front of them said when this happens.

While the kids can ask for many things, Carter’s wife Mary is always wondering about two specific answers, “I always ask him what was the saddest thing and what was the cutest thing.”

While most kids ask for toys, sometimes the children’s requests are much more heartfelt.

“I’ve had children say that they would like their dad back from Iraq. That just about brings a tear in your eye,” Carter said.

Besides the answers kids bring him every time he is Santa, Carter especially enjoys watching children grow up year after year.

“When you see the kids every year, you kind of see how the kids grow up. One year they may be a little timid to Santa, but next year they might be a little bit better,” Carter said.

Carter is also currently a school bus driver for the Black River Falls School District, which posed an interesting question one day when he had his beard grown out.

“I was a sub bus driver at that time and I had these little kids that wanted to be elves,” Carter said adding that he then asked if they were good at building things. “They fell right into that.”

Despite all of the children he has been Santa for over the last 25 years, Carter is now excited that he can be Santa for his granddaughter Savannah. “I got to be her first Santa.”

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Jackson County Chronicle editor

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