This month, we caught up with the one-and-only Legendary Santa. It was eighty years ago when Richmond’s real Santa Claus first greeted children and their families in front of the hearth at the landmark Miller & Rhoads downtown department store.
Since that time, scores of children have traveled with their parents from all around the state (and often, points much further) to share their Christmas wishes with the Jolly Old Elf himself. In fact, because the Miller & Rhoads Santa was so famous, he soon became “legendary,” and the name stuck.
When Miller & Rhoads closed in 1990, Legendary Santa moved to nearby Thalhimer’s Department Store, and a few years later, to the Richmond Convention Center. In 2005, Santa moved one last time to his current home at the Children’s Museum of Richmond on Broad Street.
That’s where Santa sees thousands of children, while their parents look on with wonder, many of them remembering their own childhood visits. Last season, more than 25,000 people came through the line to see Legendary Santa, Snow Queen, and Elf.
“Here at the Children’s Museum, excited families wait in comfort inside the museum to take their turn with Legendary Santa,” says Shannon Venable, president and CEO of the CMoR. “They can get in the holiday mood, taking in the Genworth Foundation Holiday Village to see the customs and traditions of Christmas and other holidays from around the world as they wait.”
If you visited Legendary Santa when you were a child, don’t be surprised when things feel very familiar at CMoR. “The set-up here is very much like it was at Miller & Rhoads because that’s how Legendary Santa likes it,” says Venable. “All the trappings of the original Santa Land are in place: the ornate velvet chair, the chimney and fireplace, the souvenir photos taken with Legendary Santa, and the lovely Snow Queen.” Venable adds
that CMoR also hosts the Fawn Shop, where children can purchase gifts for their grown-up loved ones with help from Santa’s elves.
As for why Legendary Santa keeps coming back to Richmond year after year, Santa says it’s the smiles that bring him back to RVA. “The reason I come down to Richmond every year is the wonderful families and children of the area. I love how they enjoy the traditions of Legendary Santa. The magic that occurs every day in Santa Land is precious to me, and year after year I’m so delighted to see how much the children enjoy it,” says Santa. Want to know more about Legendary Santa? Keep reading and share these fun facts with your friends.
Mountains or beach?
Beach, but I love the mountains, too. Getting sand in my Santa suit is not fun!
Dogs or cats?
Reindeer, of course!
What book is on your nightstand right now?
There are two actually: A Christmas Carol and How Santa Got His Job. It’s semi-biographical and one of my favorite picture books!
If you were stranded on a desert island, what food would you want to grow on trees?
Chocolate chip cookies, of course!
What’s the last live performance – concert, play, or musical – you attended in Richmond?
Last year, I caught The Nutcracker from Richmond Ballet. This year, I really want to see A Christmas Story at Virginia Rep. Will Ralphie finally get that BB gun?
Favorite Richmond restaurant for the whole family?
I have way too many favorites to name just one.
What is your energy source?
Santa magic, chocolate chip cookies, and the faces of happy children!
Favorite family outing with Mrs. Claus and the elf minions?
Watching the reindeer games, of course.
Finish this sentence: “My family loves it when I…”
get stuck in a chimney. But then I have to cut down on the cookies!
Readers will be surprised to know:
Coming to Richmond each day to visit with little ones is great practice for my reindeer. They build up their endurance, and our new reindeer learn the ropes to get ready for the big flight. While I’m at the Children’s Museum, Mrs. Claus takes care of everything at the North Pole along with my head elves, Judy and Bernard.