250-plus Santas will converge in Albion this week

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 15 April 2015 at 12:00 am

Photos courtesy of Peggy Barringer – These Santas hold Chloe Mosele, Peggy Barringer’s granddaughter, during a Charlie Howard celebration on September 25, 2010.

ALBION – It will feel like a homecoming and a pilgrimage for 250-plus Santas this week when they converge in Albion for a Santa Claus Conference.

Albion is hosting the Charles W. Howard Legendary Santa Claus Conference this week with Santas from across the country – and some from outside the U.S. – in town from Thursday through Sunday. The many activities at the conference are free and open to the public.

“It’s a camaraderie and a chance to exchange ideas,” said Phil Wenz, coordinator of the event. He has worked the past 30 years as a year-round Santa at the Santa’s Village theme park in Dundee, Ill.

Wenz pushed for a “Charlie Howard Day” celebration in Albion on Sept. 25, 2010. He wanted the Santas to celebrate the hometown of Charlie Howard, who is held in high regard in the Santa community.

Howard started a Santa School in 1937, developing standards for dress and interacting with children. Howard ran the school on Phipps Road until his death in 1966.

The school has since been moved to Midland, Mich., but it still bears the name of Charlie Howard.

Wenz and the Santas try to have Santa Claus conferences every two years. Wenz wanted the multi-day event, which will draw more Santas than the special event in 2010, to come to Howard’s hometown.

These Santas gather in 2010 for a photo outside the First United Methodist Church in Albion. Charlie Howard attended the church.

Wenz would like to work with the Albion community to celebrate the Charlie Howard and Santa Claus heritage. That could be more Santa-themed events, signage about Howard and Santa, and perhaps a bronze statue for Howard dressed as Santa.

“We want to make Albion a destination for Santa Clauses,” he said.

Celebrating that Santa heritage could make Albion a tourist draw, especially when coupled with the community’s historic attractions, the Erie Canal and other resources, Wenz said.

This Santa-themed vehicle was in Albion on September 25, 2010. Albion can expect to see about 250 Santas around town in the next few days.