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Meet the Jolliest Man in Downtown Phoenix: Santa Claus

December 1, 2016 by Fara Illich

Santa at Pjs in the Park

In 2014, Downtown Phoenix Santa posed with hundreds of children during PJs in the Park, one of many free holiday photo opportunities for Selfies with Santa. (Photo: Fara Illich)

For Downtown Phoenix Santa, who goes by the alias Glenn Reathaford in the off-season, being jolly isn’t just a job description; it’s a way of life.

“When you’re doing something you truly enjoy, you’re bound to look happy,” he said. “I’ve never had a bad Christmas.”

People of all ages can catch that magical smile on Friday at PJs in the Park, a free double feature at Civic Space Park beginning at 5:30 p.m. with “The Polar Express,” followed by “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” at 7:30 p.m. Or visit Santa during one of his weekend appearances on the east side of CityScape Phoenix. The line starts on the second floor near Blue Hound Kitchen and Cocktails.

Selfies with Santa CityScape

A memorable holiday moment captured during the CitySkate Grand Opening and Tree Lighting Ceremony in 2014. (Photo: Ernie Rodriguez)

Downtown Phoenix Inc. (DPI) brought Reathaford back for a third season of Selfies With Santa — a series of free bring-your-own-camera photo opportunities — based on popular demand.

According to Brandi Porter, marketing and events coordinator at DPI, the goal is to create a fun, memorable and family-friendly holiday tradition in Downtown Phoenix.

“We want people to walk away having experienced something unlike anywhere else in the Valley,” she said. “If they’re coming downtown, there’s going to be something fun for them to find here, whether that’s Santa Claus, the ice rink or ‘The Nutcracker.'”

While Santa’s primary residence is obviously the North Pole, Reathaford also keeps a home locally and works as a bus driver for Washington Elementary School District. Although sometimes, he said it’s difficult to hide his true identity from the kids.

“It’s just amazing, even when I’m in the grocery store, they’ll look up at me and smile like they know who I am,” he said. “You start to learn what a celebrity feels like.”

Being downtown’s frontman for Christmas means maintaining a strict year-round regimen for beard upkeep, and pretty much working non-stop between the second week in November to New Year’s Eve. But seeing the way a child’s face lights up when they see him makes it all worthwhile.

“A smile makes a smile and that smile makes another,” he said. “It’s just contagious.”

For a complete list of fun things to do this season, check out Holidays in Downtown, DPI’s extensive events calendar.

Selfies With Santa Schedule:
Friday, Dec. 2 / Movie begins at 5:30 p.m. / Santa photos 7-10 p.m. / PJs in the Park
Saturday, Dec. 3 / 1-6 p.m. / CityScape Phoenix
Sunday, Dec. 4 / 1-6 p.m. / CityScape Phoenix
Friday, Dec. 9 / 4-9 p.m. / City Lights Movie Nights
Saturday, Dec. 17 / 1-6 p.m. / CityScape Phoenix
Sunday, Dec. 18 / 1-6 p.m. / CityScape Phoenix


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