Spreading holiday cheer

Jennifer Simmons
Posted 12/11/20

Santa Claus, the magic that comes with his yearly visits and the gifts he leaves behind are parts of most youngsters’ childhood memories. For Steve Strang, that magic was instilled early on, and perhaps the greatest allure is that he has continued to provide that magic to children for nearly 50 years.

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Spreading holiday cheer

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Santa Claus, the magic that comes with his yearly visits and the gifts he leaves behind are parts of most youngsters’ childhood memories. For Steve Strang, that magic was instilled early on, and perhaps the greatest allure is that he has continued to provide that magic to children for nearly 50 years.

When Strang was a child, Santa visited his family each year. Unbeknownst to him then, Santa was actually his dad or an uncle, dressed in a Santa suit, who had quietly left the family festivities at a family member’s house to return and surprise the children and other children in the neighborhood.

“My grandfather lived up on Baxter Road,” Strang said. “My grandfather would make wooden toys and hand them out on Christmas Eve. We’d have dinner and then they would have Santa Claus [come] and pass out presents. So he did that to start with. The older he grew, the more the kids knew him, so he traded off with my uncles and my uncles would do it. When I was probably 15 or 16, too many [of the young kids] knew who my uncles were, so then they had me and my cousins take turns and dress us up as Santa.”

Over the years, Strang has shared his love of the Christmas season and Santa with Rochelle. He has donned his handmade Santa suit in Rochelle’s Lighted Christmas Parade, he has been present to kick off the holiday season with the lighting of the city’s Christmas tree, he has visited with children at the Flagg-Rochelle Public Library, visited classrooms of wife Sally Sawicki’s colleagues at Tilton School, played Santa for the CAN Children’s Shopping Trip and played Santa in Creston for the Booster Club. He has even posed for photos with children at the Flagg Township Museum on many occasions over the years.

During appearances in the many parades through downtown Rochelle over the years, Santa Strang has handed out candy canes and has even taken time for photos with children when the parade line is stopped.

“The sleigh used to be in the back of a pickup but I didn’t like being that high up far away from the kids,” Strang said. “The kids like to touch my hands or touch my coat and they couldn’t do that when I was up that high.”

Now, Strang has a sleigh he uses in parades that is pulled by a truck – it is affixed atop caster wheels. Strang hopes to keep donning his Santa suit and spreading Christmas cheer as long as he can.

“This is absolutely his favorite month, he lives for it,” Sally said.

The Flagg Township Museum will be hosting Santa on Saturday, Dec. 19 so children have an opportunity to visit and share their Christmas wishes. From 1 to 2 p.m., Santa will be outside the museum where kids will be able to have photos taken with him at the sleigh on the west side of the building. For those unable to visit Santa in person, he will be on a Zoom meeting from 2 to 3 p.m. the same day.

The Zoom visit with Santa is limited to 100 participants at a time. To join the Zoom visit the following link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/82272911699?pwd=VUVuZmIxRFlvV0UrZ2d1THc0V3Yzdz09.

The meeting ID is 822 7291 1699 and the passcode is 654006. If joining via phone, the number is 1 312 626 6799. The meeting ID is 822 7291 1699 and the passcode is 654006.