Cocoa Santa brings holiday cheer and performance to the St. Louis community


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  • Courtesy of Kevin Nolan
  • Kevin Nolan, known as Cocoa Santa, has brought the holiday spirit to the St. Louis area for eight years now.

Kevin Nolan first donned a red Santa Claus costume eight years ago to take photos at preschool of his daughter with her classmates. He had gone to Walmart, bought a Santa costume, and his beard was still black. After taking a few pictures with the children, her phone rang. Parents were calling, saying you don’t often see a colored Santa Claus – and he realized they were right.

Nolan now has a professional red costume, complete with bells and a smile that only the real Santa could compete with. He travels around the St. Louis area, booking events and other tours as Cocoa Santa – a Santa Claus with a “slightly darker shade,” he describes on his website.

Each holiday season, Nolan takes a break from work at the Metropolitan Sewer District in St. Louis to spread the joy.

“It feels good to show that representation matters. I’m here for anyone who wants to come, ”Nolan told the RFT. “I like to see the smiles of young and old. Sometimes adults are even more dizzy than children. It’s absolutely wonderful to be that person to bring that smile to everyone.

Cocoa Santa is often told “I didn’t know Santa Claus was black” by kids – something Nolan attributes to kids who lack a filter – and explains to them that Santa is available in all colors and sizes. , and says he thinks it’s important to have this appearance this year. He’ll ask the kid if it’s okay, and then he’ll say the conversation usually stems from there. Typical wishlists follow, along with a general discussion of the things they want Santa to know.

Listening is a key skill when it comes to being Santa, says Nolan, something he was taught at Santa’s school (yes, that’s real.) He makes sure hear what children are saying, as well as what they are not saying, and watch for different clues. Santa’s school taught him to interact with large and small crowds, as well as to be an effective storyteller. He also believes that the little details are just as important as the big ones.

These skills come into play with one of Nolan’s favorite memories as Cocoa Santa. Last year, Cocoa Santa offered Zoom calls and the parents arranged for their daughter Jessica to speak to her. Before the call, Nolan asked his parents for facts about their child, like he does with all children, and they told him about Jessica’s elf on the shelf, Timmy. When Cocoa Santa asked Jessica how Timmy was doing, she was stunned. After the call, Jessica’s mother sent Nolan a video of the little girl informing her grandmother that she had spoken to the real Santa because he knew about Timmy. All the little things “make a real difference,” says Nolan.

Nolan’s family also joined in the fun: his wife, Gloria, also stars as Mrs. Claus, and her children serve as elves who can hand out candy canes and attend events with him.

“My wife saw pictures online and she said ‘Wow you like doing that!’ and I would say “Yes, you should try it!” »» Recaps Nolan. “Finally, I gave it a try. She went to an event and said, ‘You know what, I get it. I understand why you’re doing this. It’s a good feeling to see all the smiles and the energy. positive It’s a family ordeal now.

Cocoa Santa made a list and double-checked it for its upcoming events this week. He will be at Field foods (1500 avenue Lafayette) on December 15 from 4.30 p.m. to 7 p.m. Mrs. Claus will join him at Magic house MADE (5127, boulevard Delmar) from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on December 17 and Bellefontaine Leisure Center (9669, chemin Bellefontaine) from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. on December 18. He also visits the Saint Louis Gallery (1155 gallery) 2 times a week: He will be present on December 19 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and on December 20 from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

When asked what he loves about the holiday season as Cocoa Santa, Nolan knew the answer right away.

“As Santa Claus, I am always able to bring smiles and joy to newcomers. I’ve been doing this for eight years and still get a lot of positive exposure, ”he says. “It’s a good feeling to see someone smile with a genuine smile, without a cause, without an effort, it’s a good feeling for Cocoa Santa to get that from people.”

You can also see Cocoa Santa riding his sleigh – a red jeep adorned with Christmas lights – in the St. Louis area. He also has a Facebook page where he lists the places he will be going that week.

Follow Jenna on Twitter at @writesjenna. Email the author at [email protected]

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