Most of the year he’s known as Frank Kirby, but every December there’s one name he answers to more often: Santa Claus.
Kirby has been a professional Santa for about 35 years, having first donned the red suit for private parties, before moving to Park Lane on Spring Garden Road. This was followed by stints at the West End Mall and as the first Parade of Lights Santa. Now he mostly works with Glow the Event Store but does several other events, like the IWK Christmas tree lighting.
He’s been practising for the role since childhood. During elementary school, he was asked to portray Santa in a holiday play. He’d often watch the CBC news with his parents. Through the 1960s, Bill Fulton would appear on screen for a few minutes each December as Santa to read letters and recite the Christmas Pledge.
“I modelled my voice after watching him,” says the 68-year-old retiree from Spryfield. “He’s my role model.”
Simone Spears says Kirby embodies the red-suited elf. “When people called in looking for a Santa, he’d always be my first call; he just has that personality that works so well, and clients love him,” says Spears, who previously worked in the event and sales department at Glow.
Santa isn’t Kirby’s only character: for 12 years he was the CJCH radio station mascot, CJ the Bird. Following his retirement from the Province of Nova Scotia, he’s also worked as actor, extra, and crew member on various film productions and has done different characters for Glow. “He takes on any task and any role and just becomes that,” says Spears.
But Kirby does try to bring a bit of Santa with him. “[CJ] was based on the same thing as Santa, spreading smiles and joy and working with families,” says Kirby.
And, Spears says, these mannerisms aren’t just present when Kirby’s in costume. “The whole office just seemed to light up when he walked in,” she says, recalling their first meeting. “I don’t know the right way to describe it, but … he’s always
While Kirby remains humble, calling himself “just a jolly person,” he says there are those who consider him the “real Santa.” They’ll only go to see him when he’s preforming at Glow’s Winter Wonderland event.
“Some kids won’t go anywhere else but to Winter Wonderland and they have told me they’ve been to other places, but those people are my helpers,” he says.
While most of his events and Santa visits are geared toward children, Kirby tries to make it a group activity. “I just don’t focus on the kids; if mom or dad are there I bring them into the conversation because, to me, Christmas is about families,” he says.