Santa Claus sticks around mid-Missouri

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HOLTS SUMMIT - Joe Baker has portrayed the role of Santa Claus in mid-Missouri for the last 30 years.

"I love every minute of it," Baker said.

Baker said he worked a behind-the-desk job three days a week, but that wasn't enough.

"One day My wife came home and said you look bored," Baker said. "It was a Monday afternoon and I'll never forget that day."

That night, Baker looked through a JCPenney Christmas catalogue and found a Santa suit. Baker said he had the idea to be Santa Claus.

"I asked my wife to go get my the Santa suit." Baker said.

Baker's wife, who now plays Mrs. Claus, worked at Walmart and suggested he play Santa at the store. Baker talked to the store manager and they worked out a deal. He said for four nights a week, he'd come be Santa.

"We would charge five or six dollars a picture and we would donate that money to the Children's Miracle Network," Baker said.

Baker said he is always spotted at Santa walking around Holts Summit because of his appearance. 

"I’ve got the big red belly, it does jiggle a little bit, it’s not Jello though because Santa likes to eat, Baker said. "I also have a white beard everyday. 

"I go to Break Time in Holts Summit and they always yell for Santa," Baker said.

Baker said he has a lot of favorite memories, but his most favorite is when he delivered toys to two children, Suzie and Charlie, at their home.

"A grandmother came up to me and asked if I'd come and deliver toys to her grandkids who had never celebrated Christmas," Baker said. "I showed up to the front door with my big red bag, and rang the doorbell. Charlie answered the door and slammed it in my face." 

Baker said after coming in the door, the kids were still hesitant. But after the kids got their gifts, he saw their hearts change.

"Little Suzie had tears in her eyes," Baker said. "She never knew a stranger could care about her so much."

Baker said the reason he loves being Santa Claus, is the community impact he gets to make.

"You know, you've had the little memories and then you have the big memories. I don't care if you’re 3 days old, or you are 106. I don't care how old you are, I’m not prejudiced, who you are or what color you are, if you can smile, Santa can make you smile," Baker said.

Baker said he doesn't know if he will ever hang up the red coat because it's something he loves doing all the time.

"Sometimes I walk around Walmart and give quarters out to kids," Baker said. "It's funny because it makes them be good."

Baker said if you are ever looking for him, never ask for his name.

"Just go up to anyone and ask if you've seen Santa," Baker said.