Rural Missouri - December 2016 - 36
When James Bethurem saw his
hair and beard turning white a
couple of years ago, he decided
to start sharing Christmas joy
and cheer every day of the year
as an Ozarks Santa Claus.
The Heart of a Claus
James Bethurem enjoys portraying Santa Claus every day of the year
by Heather Berry | email@example.com
check for potential employers.
While the gift requests change, Jim says there's usually a theme to the wishhe door opens and there stands a white-bearded man clad in jeans and es he hears. "I get a lot of call for Legos and anything to do with the movie 'Frored suspenders. His short-sleeve Christmas-themed shirt reminds you zen,' " says Jim, adding that he must do his homework and stay up on all the
a bit of a Jimmy Buffett song, with its holiday-island design. A pair of current kid movie characters and toys for each season.
Santa Jim hasn't been "ho-ho-hoing" as long as some Kringles, so he was a
bright solid-red kicks complete the laid-back ensemble.
"Come on in," says James Bethurem, pointing toward the living room. little surprised at one request he received last season.
"The child simply said, 'I want a baby boy brother that poops vegetables,' "
"Just decorated the Christmas tree. After this week, Santa's busy 'til January."
As he crosses the room, a slight scent of sugar cookies wafts through the air. Jim says. "I looked at Mom, she looked at me, and we just moved on. Sometimes
you just don't know what to say."
Over his oval-rimmed glasses his eyes twinkle, and he smiles.
While still relatively new to the world of professional Santas, Jim says he's
"Yeah, it's me," he says grabbing his white beard. "Sugar cookie beard oil."
James, better known as "Santa Jim" to those around the rural town of been lucky to not have any real horror stories yet.
"Kids want to give the beard a tug to see if it's real, and that's not a problem,"
Brighton, is a professional Santa Claus. While the career choice certainly ﬁts,
it wasn't one the Southwest Electric Cooperative member grew up dreaming he says. "But some of them kick, cough, sneeze, scream and pee ... it could get
about. The Missouri native had been a construction worker for
ugly. We Santas have got to be ready to handle things as calmly as possible."
Earlier this year, Jim received a $500 scholarship offered by The Interyears, but an accident injured his back so badly Jim had to go
on disability permanently and forgo the career.
national Brotherhood of Real Bearded Santas which allowed him to attend
any Santa school of his choosing. He picked the Professional Santa
"Last year around Father's Day, I was looking in the mirror,
ready to shave my head like I usually did and I noticed my hair
Claus School in Denver for its reputation and central location.
Jim then got on Facebook and began searching for other Santas
and beard were getting whiter and whiter as I aged," says the 59
in the area. With the new contacts entered into Facebook, Jim hit
year old. "So when I came out of the bathroom, my wife noticed I
"save." Then he read the message on the computer screen.
hadn't shaved my head or my beard.
"I had accidently started a group instead of a list of contacts,"
"Nope, I think I'm going to be Santa," he recalls telling Denise.
recalls Jim. "Suddenly, I was getting messages thanking me for
"Thankfully, the rest of my hair and beard did come in white."
adding them, and then those people added other Santas to the
Jim says this is a job he can do standing or sitting. "So if my
back is bothering me, an 'Ohh!' can be turned into a 'Ho-ho-ho!' pretty easily
group. It was crazy."
The private group, called Ozarks Santas, currently consists of members from
without anyone noticing, so it works out perfectly."
After some more research, Santa Jim realized it was going to take a little southwest Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Kansas who were or plan to
become a professional Claus. The small group is open to real or bearded Krinmore than a basic wardrobe to do the job.
"You can sink as little or as much money as you want into a Santa outﬁt. I gles, but you must be a professional to be added to the group. There is even a
have $1,200 in two suits alone, not to mention the dozens of white gloves," Jim Mrs. Claus or two in the group.
The group met for the ﬁrst time in August with nearly 20 members attending.
says. "You never know what germs you'll come across, so I change gloves daily."
Jim got an agent who helped him start getting the word out about his avail- "We talked about what worked, what didn't, who didn't pay on time, etc. It's a
ability for the 2015 season, which for most Clauses runs from early November good way to network and help each other learn," says Jim. "We can also share
through the end of December. His ﬁrst job was as a Branson Scenic Railway's if there are jobs out there that we're unable to take on, which helps make the
Polar Express Santa. He was also hired as the Branson Bass Pro Shops Santa, season brighter for other Santas who are looking for work."
Jim says for those who truly love Christmas and making the season merry
and can be visited by children through the holidays at both places this season.
While he admits he's not the most tech-savvy Kringle, Santa Jim did get a and bright for all, being a professional Santa might be something to consider.
"I swear sometimes I feel more like I'm Santa Claus than James," says Jim.
computer with an email address and used it to help ﬁnd jobs in the area. He
"That's how engrained it's become to me. I can be somewhere and see a child's
ﬁnds it helpful when searching for possible jobs for the season.
"I log well over 300 hours of Santa work during November and December," eyes light up and hear them whisper 'Santa!' and that makes it all worthwhile."
says Jim, thankful that as a second-year professional Santa he's been recogSanta's pretty busy right now, but he'd love to hear from children both young
nized as a hard-working Claus by those who've hired him. While not every Santa
does, he carries $4.5 million in insurance and a copy of his current background and old via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Facebook at James Bethurem.
RURAL MISSOURI | DECEMBER 2016