$100,000 goal met for bronze Santa statue in Albion

Photos by Tom Rivers: This photo from March 24, 2021 shows the directors of the Albion Betterment Committee with sculptor Brian Porter after they signed a contract to have Porter create a bronze statue of Santa Claus in downtown Albion at Waterman Park. Pictured from left include ABC director Joe Gehl, Brian Porter, and ABC directors Gary Derwick and Gary Kent. The project also includes landscaping, interpretive panels and lighting.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 21 January 2022 at 8:29 am

ALBION – The Albion Betterment Committee has reached its goal of raising $100,000 for a bronze statue of Santa on Main Street in Waterman Park.

The group has been raising funds for nearly seven years for the statue, a base, bench, interpretive panels and other features celebrating the life of Charles W. Howard, who ran a Santa Claus School in Albion from 1937 until his death in 1966. The school continues today in Howard’s name in Midland, Mich.

The Betterment Committee has hired Brian Porter to create the bronze statue. Porter made the statue of the soldier outside the former Medina Armory, which is now the Orleans County YMCA.

The Albion Betterment Committee had this sign honoring Charles Howard erected in 2015 on Route 98 in Albion.

In November, the Betterment Committee was at $64,000 for the project. It did a community appeal to close the gap, and Maurice and Courtenay Hoag came through with a major donation, said Joe Gehl, one of the ABC’s directors. The Hoags have been a major benefactor for a public library in Albion that bears their name.

“Obviously, we’re very excited in having attained this milestone, which will allow us to enhance the Park and make it more tourist-friendly,” Gehl said.

The Betterment Committee said the statue should be done and dedicated in June 2023 during the Strawberry Festival.

The group wanted to recognize Howard who also operated Christmas Park in Albion and is revered among Santa portrayers even today. About 200 of the “Santa’s” attended a convention in Albion in 2015. That Santa convention “raised awareness of the community-building potential represented by greater acknowledgement of his place in history,” the ABC directors said.

The Betterment Committee has put up new signs in Albion celebrating Howard’s legacy, and also were successful in getting the state to declare part of Route 31 in Albion as the Charles W. Howard Memorial Highway. Those signs went up in December 2020 right before Christmas.