By Starrla Cray
CARVER COUNTY, MN Everyone knows Santa Claus lives in a place with lots of snow and cold, but very few realize that place is not the North Pole it’s north of New Germany.
Another little known fact is that Mr. and Mrs. Claus also go by the names Stan and Teresa Parochka.
It all began 37 years ago, when Stan was a junior in high school. A family needed a Santa their kids wouldn’t recognize, so they asked Stan if he’d be willing to help out.
“I put on a suit, and that’s how it got started,” he said.
Later on, Teresa came on the scene. She watched her husband at events the first few years of their marriage, and then decided to sew herself a red-and-white dress and join the fun.
“We’re usually busy every weekend in December,” Teresa said, listing activities they had planned one weekend in December a private party in Buffalo, a visit to Elim Home in Watertown, appearances at banks in Waverly and Montrose, and cookies and milk with Santa in Delano, to name a few.
“On a Saturday morning, we might roll out at 9 a.m. and not get home until 10 p.m.,” Stan added, explaining that they often do several events in one day.
Santa must be magic
All that experience has made Stan pretty good at reading children.
“In New Germany this year, there were two sisters, and one of them was getting to the age where she’s not sure if she believes in Santa,” he recalled. “She was staring me down pretty good.”
Stan looked at her and said, “I bet I can guess what you want for Christmas.”
The girl was unimpressed, until Stan said the word, “iPad.”
Then, her eyes got wide, and she asked, “How did you know?”
Stan teases children from time to time, such as one girl who said “Frozen” was on her Christmas list. Stan knew, of course, that she was referring to the popular children’s movie, but pretended not to understand.
She giggled as he said, “What is it that you want? A frozen pizza?”
On occasion, Stan really doesn’t know what kids are talking about.
“Some of the toys I’ve never even heard of,” he said. “What the heck is a Lalaloopsy doll?”
Dasher and dancer
“Another little fellow was asking if I had reindeer,” Stan continued. “I took him outside and told him to look on the roof.”
Stan told him the reindeer are really fast, so one has to look really quick in order to see them.
When Stan asked, “Did you see them?” the little boy answered earnestly, “Yeah, I saw them!”
Years ago, Stan actually did have a sleigh. Before Philip “Flip” McDonald of Delano passed away in January 2012, he put a sleigh on the back of his pickup truck, with a deer head on the front that had a lit-up red nose. Stan would ride around on it, waving to people as they drove by.
Some Christmas memories are unplanned, like the time Stan dressed as Santa saw children sledding in Watertown.
“I slid down the hill with them,” he said.
Wherever they go, Santa and Mrs. Claus try to have candy canes and toys ready to give away.
They once saw a family playing outside, and could tell they didn’t have a lot of money. They gave the children teddy bears and wished the family a merry Christmas.
“Their mother was crying, and as we drove away, the kids hugged those bears so tight,” Teresa said. “Every year, there’s always the one family that tugs at your heart.”
Another time, Stan and Teresa stopped at Dairy Queen between events.
A family eating there asked if they could get a photo. Normally, their daughter had been too scared to sit by Santa, but with Mrs. Claus there, she felt more comfortable.
“Afterward, the dad said they had never, ever been able to get a picture with Santa before,” Teresa said.
Crying like crazy
Being petrified of Santa is not uncommon.
“Parents will dress their kid up and want this nice Kodak moment, but the kid will be stiff as a board and screaming his head off,” Stan said. “I tell the parents to take the picture. When the graduation picture is out someday, put this one next to it.”
A few youngsters are timid at first, but later change their mind.
“One year, a little boy would not look at him, and would not sit on his lap,” Teresa said.
Then, Santa handed him a present (which was from a family member). The boy opened it, and saw it was the toy combine he wanted.
“He went right up and gave Santa a great big hug,” Teresa said.
Teresa and Stan don’t generally charge for events, and compensation is left to the discretion of those who hire them.
“It’s entertainment for us, and it’s memories for a lot of families,” Stan said.
And, it’s not just little kids, either.
“We do parties for adults in their 20s and 30s, and they post the pictures on Facebook,” Stan said.
Some teenagers think they’re too old for Santa, but Stan doesn’t let them off easy.
“I tell them, ‘If you don’t come over, I’m coming over by you,’” he said. “You’re never too old for Santa.”