Albion group signs contract for new bronze statue of Santa

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 24 March 2021 at 3:52 pm

Betterment Committee wants to recognize Charles W. Howard’s legacy as Santa School founder

Photos by Tom Rivers

ALBION – Members of the Albion Betterment Committee today signed a contract with Brian Porter of Pendleton to create a bronze statue of Santa Claus that will resemble Charles W. Howard, the founder of a Santa Claus School.

Pictured from left include ABC director Joe Gehl, Brian Porter, and ABC directors Gary Derwick and Gary Kent.

The statue is planned for the park on Main Street, a half block south of the Erie Canal where there is a mural showing Santa in flight with a sleigh and reindeer, high above the Courthouse Square and downtown Albion.

Porter expects to have a final depiction in a month of Charles Howard as Santa for the statue. The Albion Lions Club has agreed to let Porter borrow an original Charles Howard Santa suit to help finalize the model of the statue. Howard designed Santa suits that remain a distinctive style today. Howard also operated Christmas Park in Albion and served as the Santa in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade for 18 years.

The Betterment Committee has been working five years to raise funds for the projects. It can still use some more money for the base for the statue and other park improvements. Donations can be sent to Albion Betterment Committee/Charles Howard Project, 14487 Baker Rd., Kent NY, 14477. That is the address for Joe Gehl, one of the directors of the Albion Betterment Committee.

It will take Porter about two years to create the new bronze statue honoring Howard, who started the school in Albion in 1937 and ran it until his death in 1966. (Click here for more on the school.)

Porter is no stranger to projects in Orleans County. He created the 7-foot-high bronze statue of a soldier outside the former Medina Armory, which is now the Orleans County YMCA.

Porter is shown during a Sept. 7, 2019 dedication ceremony for that statue, which weighs 1,400 pounds. That project honored the 550 soldiers who trained at the Armory from 1898 to 1947 and they fought in four major conflicts: the Spanish American War, Mexican Border Incursion, World War I and World War II.

Santa portrayers from around the country visited Albion for a convention in April 2015. They gathered for a group photo by the County Courthouse.

Howard remains a revered figure among Santas. The Santa School continues in his name in Midland, Mich. Albion has twice hosted gatherings for the Santa community, the last in 2015 when there were about 200 Santa impersonators in Albion.

That group was disappointed when it was in Albion and there wasn’t more in Howard’s hometown recognizing his role in helping to shape the modern Santa Claus.

There have since been two large-scale murals installed in Albion, celebrating the community’s role with the first Santa Claus school. The Betterment Committee has put up “Believe” signs and convinced the local and state governments to name the portion of Route 31 in Albion in memory of Charles W. Howard. The new signs went up along Route 31 in December, just before Christmas.

The Betterment Committee wants to honor the Howard legacy in Albion, and provide incentive for the Santas to come back for their conventions, and also add an attraction in downtown Albion.