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Local Santa honored with prestigious Charles W. Howard Award

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 18 April 2015 at 12:00 am

Photos by Tom Rivers – Ken McPherson walks across the stage in the Albion Middle School Auditorium on Friday night to receive the Charles W. Howard Award for his efforts to keep Howard’s legacy alive in Albion and Orleans County. Howard, founder of a Santa Claus School, is pictured in lower left.

ALBION – In Orleans County, Ken McPherson is the go-to person for information and artifacts about the late Charles W. Howard, who founded and ran a Santa Claus School in Albion.

McPherson gives many talks a year to service clubs and other organizations about Howard, discussing how the Santa School founded developed standards for Santa’s dress and his interactions with children. Howard even wanted Santa to be light on his feet. That’s why he made them take dancing lessons at the school.

McPherson also has become a collector of memorabilia from Christmas Park, which Howard ran with the Santa School.

Ken McPherson of Shelby, right, is presented with the Charles W. Howard Award by Phil Wenz, founder of the Santa Claus Oath Foundation and coordinator of the Charles W. Howard Legendary Santa Claus Conference.

“No one has done more to has keep Charlie Howard’s legacy alive in his hometown,” said Phil Wenz, founder of the Santa Claus Oath Foundation.

He presented McPherson with the Charles W. Howard Award on Friday night at the Charles W. Howard Legendary Santa Claus Conference.

Howard remains a revered figure among the Santa community. In addition to establishing the Santa School, Howard served as the Santa in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, sitting atop a float and waving to more than a million people on the parade route.

That parade was also on national television and catapulted Howard into fame. Howard was the parade Santa from 1948 to 1965.

A Santa resembling Ken McPherson visits with children in Albion last December.

After Howard’s death in 1966, the Santa Claus School moved to Midland, Michigan. It continues today and bears Howard’s name.

McPherson has attended the school several times and has portrayed Santa for three decades locally, getting his first start at the Millville United Methodist Church.

McPherson works as a press operator for the Lake Country Pennysaver in Albion.

He told a crowd of about 200 Santas on Friday night it is his honor to portray Santa “in Charlie’s backyard.”