Santa In Kentuckiana

Photo by CRYSTAL LUDWICK | Contributing Photographer

Photo by CRYSTAL LUDWICK | Contributing Photographer

There is a compelling argument to be made that Christmas has gone completely commercial. Despite its humble origins as a celebration of feast, light and the giving and receiving of gifts, it is safe to say that the holiday has morphed over time into something unrecognizable. Neither of these statements is more true than it is for the secular part of Christmas’ central figure: Santa Claus. There is hope — for the Louisville area at least — in the form of Walter Queen.

Walter describes himself as a professional Santa, and many in the Louisville community know him simply as Santa Walt. His commitment to the myth and character are absolute. “I consider myself a ‘full-time’ Santa character. I don’t cut my beard or hair other than to keep it even or bleach as some Santas do.  In fact, the kids that come by The Home Depot where I work part-time refer to me as Santa,” he says.

For Queen, it all started 10 years ago when a friend asked the Santa-to-be to deliver a puppy. The puppy was for the friend’s daughter, and the entire experience was an elaborate Christmas gift. It was this friend who purchased Queen his first suit, the first step on the path to where he is now. “That was a magical moment when I handed the puppy to my friend’s daughter and saw her light up with excitement and joy,” he reminisces.

Long since bitten by that bug, Walter has made countless public appearances over the last decade at restaurants, holiday parties and other similar events. Understandably, however, it is the children who make Queen’s commitment to being Santa worthwhile: “Most of the requests are for the normal run-of-the-mill toys, unless Mom or Dad have asked their child to ask for a new boat or a new car.  Some ask for ‘peace on Earth.’ Some ask for their daddy or mommy to come home safely from Afghanistan or Iraq.”

There is one moment in particular, that Queen treasures as one of his very favorites. A local family traveled to Bass Pro Shop in Clarksville, Indiana to meet Queen’s “Santa.” What makes this family unique though is that the little girl in tow had a condition so rare that only 10 people in the entire world possess the same exact chromosome deletion. It is nearly unbelievable to fathom then that recently, a family with a little girl with the same condition made the trek from South Florida to see Queen: “Just a few days ago, I was privileged to meet another child with the same condition.  Imagine. Twenty percent of these children were in my arms.”

It is easy to believe that the true meaning of Christmas is long lost, that the holiday has become nothing more than the chance to guzzle at the already abundant opportunities to consume in modern society. It is here, perhaps, that one can find a little heart, and Queen’s heart appears to be as big as the myth of Santa itself. This heart, as well as his rapport with children, has earned him enough fame to attract families from other parts of the country for not only his public appearances but also family holiday photos.

The origins of Santa Claus are nebulous as the modern iteration of the character is inspired by Germanic, Dutch and Nordic traditions, but no matter the culture, he is depicted as an uncommonly kind man, a man dedicated to fostering the idea of sharing love and resources for the harshest days of winter. Walter Queen is that man, making him a ray of hope for even the most cynical. When someone embodies the tenets and spirit of Christmas so completely, there is no question that Santa is not only real but also alive and well. VT