Who Brings Christmas in September?

Written by Virginia Campbell

Santa Steve Woodward arrives on UT-Chattanooga’s campus. (Photo by Kalie Shaw)

Near the end of an 80 degree day, Santa Steve Woodward cheers down Oak Street by Lockmiller Apartments on UTC campus in his old-timey Santa suit: a red robe, lined with brown fur, down to the ankles of his black boots, complete with a matching Santa hat and a dainty pair of spectacles. Having listened to Christmas music during his drive to campus, he’s already radiating the warm spirit of Christmas and asking students walking down the street whether they’ve been good this year.

What Would Santa Do? An inside look into the life of Santa Claus. Video by Jerrod Niles & Kalie Shaw.

Steve’s beard is what first got him into Santa-ing. His day-job is construction, and one of his friends, Santa Joe, convinced him that he had the perfect Santa look.With Joe’s borrowed suit, Steve and his grandchildren sat down for some Christmas photos, which quickly gained online traction. Comments rolled in from parents asking whether Steve was available to pose with their own children. With the help of his daughter, who runs Blanchard photography, he took on the title of Santa Steve.

Santa Steve Woodward stands in a Santa Suit in mid-September. (Photo by Kalie Shaw)

During the Christmas season, Santa Steve works as Santa for the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum and does private parties as well as photoshoots. His schedule as Santa starts to book up during October, but his work spreading Christmas cheer is year-round. For instance, he works to maintain the Christmas spirit during mission trips to Honduras in February. The work continues in the summer and fall while coaching softball and basketball. “As a Santa, there’s never really an off-season,” he explains. “I’ll be in the grocery store or something, and there’ll always be a kid looking. I always give them a little wink.”

As long as there are kids around, he has to be on his game. If someone were to ask him whether he’s the real Santa, Santa Steve would reply “well what do you think?” He says he knows he’s doing the work of Santa, no matter what the kids actually believe.

Santa Steve Woodward poses dressed in a complete Santa suit. (Photo by Kalie Shaw)

Santa’s philosophy is something Santa Steve naturally follows. He has always upheld a non-judgemental mind-set, having had a difficult time growing up and being judged by those around him. Santa Steve doesn’t believe in tearing people down, only building them up, and for him being Santa is a perfect way to do that.

“This is me,” he says. “Whether I’ve got red on or whether I don’t.”

Santa Steve Woodward delves into the life of being a full-time Santa. Audio by Kalie Shaw

Jolly Gentleman’s Philosophy

Written by Rachel Jordan

Unlike the average Joe, Santa needs to act a certain way, say the right thing and be ready for any situation because he is held to a higher standard than the rest.  For Santa Rick Rosenthall, being a Santa means putting on a well-made suit, fixing up his beard and remembering all that training he’s been through to prepare him for the role. One of the best ways to prepare future Santas for the job is by attending Santa Rick’s Northern Lights Santa Academy. 

Based out of Atlanta, Georgia, Northern Lights Santa Academy teaches Santa, Mrs. Claus and elves everything they need to know. Instructors give lessons in wardrobe, storytelling and even business. While Santa and Mrs. Clause are trained to develop strong characters, elves are educated to provide support to the Clause family by being comical and clever. 

The academy holds two sessions every year. During the fall session, they run a few additional classes. Alongside teaching typical Santa skills like beard and reindeer care, the Northern Lights Santa Academy partners with organizations that work with children with disabilities to educate performers on making Christmas cheer accessible to all children. 

Santa Rick reminds his students that, “As Santa, you have to be open to everybody and everything in the world.”

People will tell Santa things that they would never tell people in their everyday lives. Every interaction with Santa is very personal. All Santas must know how to deal with these moments. Santa Rick says, “Santa can change lives and he only has two minutes to do so.”

Meet the Storytellers

Kalie Shaw – Assistant Editor

Kalie Shaw is a multimedia producer experienced in telling community driven stories. Her past work with Rising Rock gives platforms for overlooked voices. Shaw’s ongoing project is a story on the people of Rossville, Georgia; a town in economic decline since the mill industry left yet the community remains hopeful. For more, and to view her portfolio, please email her at kalieshaw99@gmail.com. 

Virginia Campbell

Virginia Campbell is a senior at UTC studying Communications. She is an avid writer, with visual design skills and five years experience in live sound engineering at First Presbyterian Church. She has interned at Glass House Collective and found much of her passion lies in non-profit work. To read some samples of her work, visit https://sites.google.com/mocs.utc.edu/vlcampbell-portfolio/home.

Jerrod Niles

Jerod Niles is a multimedia producer who specializes in camera operation and post-production. Niles has over 5 years of experience in media production and is always looking towards the future. He is currently working on multiple freelance jobs as well as a media internship for Wanderlinger Brewery. You can find more of his work as well as contact information on his portfolio here: https://cqm463.wixsite.com/mysite

Rachel Jordan

Rachel Jordan is a broadcast journalist with four years of broadcasting experience and is currently a junior Communications major at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. Rachel is a hardworking, dedicated individual who aspires to capture people’s interests through her words of storytelling. In her free time, Rachel enjoys listening to music, painting, and catching up on her favorite podcasts. For questions or collaboration with Rachel, contact her at vwr245@mocs.utc.edu.

Ben Ducklo

Ben Ducklo is an audio producer and writer. He specializes in audio recording and editing. Ben has a few stories posted on Rising Rock. Ben is an outdoorsy person and loves to go hiking. Ben is also the captain of the UTC rugby team. Ben’s contact information is txh872@mocs.utc.edu and check out some of his work on RisingRock.com.

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