Local ‘Santa’ will serve as grand marshal of Medina’s Parade of Lights

By Ginny Kropf, correspondent Posted 8 November 2021 at 7:00 am

Photo by Ginny Kropf: Steve Morse and his wife Pat hold a picture of him at a Santa Claus convention in Albion several years ago. Steve, who has played Santa in Medina since 1977, has been chosen as grand marshal of this year’s Parade of Lights.

MEDINA – It’s no surprise Steve Morse, 84, has spent most of his adult life as Santa Claus. After all, he was born on Dec. 25.

Steve, who has appeared as Santa Claus since 1977 throughout Western New York, often with his wife Pat by his side as Mrs. Claus, has been chosen as Grand Marshal of this year’s Parade of Lights.

“We thought this was a fitting choice because he’s done so much in the past for our community,” said Jim Hancock, chairman of the Tourism Committee which sponsors the annual parade. “We are so happy to have him.”

Steve was born in Painted Post and Pat in Corning. They met when he was a sophomore in school and she was a freshman.

“I was sitting in the auditorium one day when this girl walked in,” Steve said. “I took a look at her and said, ‘That’s the girl I’m going to marry.’ When I went home and told my mom, she asked me what her name was and I said I didn’t know.”

The couple has been married 64 years and have two children.

In January 1977, Steve accepted a job in the X-ray department of Children’s Hospital in Buffalo, and in May they moved to Medina. He worked in Buffalo for 19 years before coming to work at Medina Memorial Hospital, and he said being in the small town was “like coming home.”

Pat taught school at the Early Childhood Center No. 78, commuting from Medina for 17 years.

Their first year in Medina, the village was looking for a Santa, Steve said. He always had a beard as an adult, and he volunteered. He used to sit in his Santa chair in G.C. Murphys’ and then walk the streets, stopping in all the stores. He had an authentic suit Medina’s Tourism Committee had made for him by the famous Charlie Howard of the Santa Claus School in Albion. Steve said it had yak fur and he took it back at the end of every season to be cleaned.

When summer arrived each year, Steve let his beard grow and whitened it for the Christmas season. He needed padding in his suit back then. He said the children always wanted to pull his beard to see if it was real.

Steve was Santa for many years at Ronald McDonald House at Children’s Hospital and at Pat’s school before she retired. He greeted children at Lee-Whedon Memorial Library, for Lion’s Club parties, the Medina United Methodist Church, Cub Scout Pack 23 in Middleport, Boy Scouts breakfast with Santa at Middleport Fire Hall and the ABCD Batavia Agri-Business Childhood Development School. He was Santa in the Medina area from 1977 to 1998, then he bought his own Santa suit, which he ordered from Canada.

After Pat retired in 1994, she had Blissett’s make her a red dress with a huge full skirt, white apron and a hat and she became Mrs. Claus.

Steve was even known to make house calls to children who were sick and unable to visit him.

When he gave up being Santa, Steve donated his suit, boots and bells to the Middleport Fire Department. He won’t need them for the Parade of Lights, because he knows the “real” Santa paraded through Medina earlier in the day and he doesn’t want to confuse the children.

He said often, even when he wasn’t wearing his Santa suit, children would come up and call him Santa. Even in Hawaii, Pat said Japanese tourists wanted to know if they could have their picture taken with Santa.

“Christmas is not just a season for Steve,” Pat said. “It’s a way of life for him. He has never said ‘no’ to a child.”

Steve said he was stunned to be asked to the parade’s grand marshal.

“Steve and I haven’t been able to go to the parades,” Pat said. “So this was a nice surprise.”

“I just hope I live up to the task,” Steve said.

Hancock is optimistic the community will honor Morse and show their community support by entering a float in this year’s 13th annual Parade of Lights, scheduled at 6 p.m. Nov. 27. After last year’s parade was dampened by Covid, Hancock and his committee are hoping for a banner year this year. Their goal is to surpass the number of previous years’ floats.

He stressed there is no fee and there are a variety of categories in which to enter.

“It can be just a farm tractor, as long as it’s all lit up,” Hancock said.

He urges highway departments, fire companies, service clubs, churches, schools and businesses to create a float and enter it in the parade.

“We give away nearly $4,000 in prizes,” Hancock said.

Categories are Service, Religious, Business/Commercial, Best in Class, Santa’s Pick (a float the judges think Santa would like), Star (most creative) and Littlest Elf (incorporates youth and adults). Ten awards are given, in addition to the $500 grand prize.

“There is no theme to encourage diversity, and you can be as creative as you want,” Hancock said.

The only restriction is no float can contain a likeness of Santa Claus, because the “real” Santa arrives in his own parade at noon that day.

Entry forms can be found on the website www.christmasinmedina.com or by calling (585) 798-2118. Entries will be accepted until Nov. 24.

The Parade of Lights is part of Medina’s Olde Tyme Christmas celebration, with children’s activities, food, musical entertainment in Rotary Park, the arrival of Santa and more. The parade at 6 p.m. is preceded at 5:45 p.m. by fireworks over the downtown.