Santa Claus was out and about Wednesday, riding not a sleigh, but a kayak as he made his way down the Fox River in McHenry on Christmas.
Santa has been traveling on the Fox from his residence in unincorporated McHenry to the Johnsburg Bridge off and on probably for the past 20 years. He went out this Wednesday in his signature Santa beard, long, white, curly hair, hat and jacket – and waterproof gloves.
“Some things get wet,” Santa said. “My outfit got wet last time I did this.”
Sometimes, he puts on a wetsuit, but Santa didn’t have to do that because of Wednesday’s warm weather.
The tradition is dependent on the weather – when the river is frozen solid or it gets too cold, he can’t go out. But with temperatures reached the mid-50s on Christmas Day this year, and the sun was shining as Santa started his journey.
“This is pretty warm,” Santa said.
In past years, when kayaking down the river, parents with their young children will come out and say hi. If he sees them, Santa will try to paddle out to the pier to say, “Hi,” and ask them if they received good Christmas presents.
“If [parents] are into telling [their] kids that there’s a Santa, they can say, ‘Oh, I’ve got proof,’ ” Santa said. “[Look] out the window.”
“It’s usually fun,” Santa said. “People smile, are happy, they’re curious. [I get] all kinds of reactions.”
At first, Santa’s traveling down the Fox River was just to “give some joy to the kids.” As the years passed, it became a good way to “unify the community,” he said.
“It’s something fun, something nice going on,” he said. “[I] do it for community spirit.”
With of all the present “acrimoniousness and hostility and conflict and name-calling” going on in the world, the McHenry resident said what he does is just the opposite.
“It’s quite a little collaboration, cooperation, a lot of joy,” Santa said.
Of course, he has fun kayaking, too. Living on the Fox River for years, the McHenry resident and his family have had kayaks, canoes and boats.
“I just really like the kayaks,” he said. “I get out early in the morning, it’s peaceful, [I can] watch the sunrise.”
“It’s fun for us, and whoever sees us, comes out,” Santa said. “It’s just a fun thing to do for the community people are happy to see Santa coming down the Fox River, ‘Oh, there’s Santa Claus!’ ”