Summit County Santa carries on family legacy of bringing joy to children during the holidays
BRECKENRIDGE — Hook LaFrankie moved to Summit County in 1989. For most of the year, he is known as a 54-year-old Breckenridge resident who works for the town in the public works department and has three grown kids. However, for a few weeks out of the year, LaFrankie is known as Santa Claus.
While being Santa is his family legacy — his great-grandfather and grandfather played Santa, as well — LaFrankie said it all started at the Boy Scouts Christmas tree lot.
“It really started with the Boy Scouts because both of my sons were Boy Scouts, and they needed someone to play Santa at the Christmas tree lot,” LaFrankie said.
He said he didn’t even know about his family tradition of playing Santa until he saw photos of his grandfather dressed as Saint Nick.
“My grandfather died — I was probably 13 or 14 — so I didn’t even know he was Santa until I was in my 20s,” LaFrankie said.
Now, LaFrankie has been playing Santa every year for the past six or seven years, making rounds as the jolly man throughout the county. He said his grown children know their dad is Santa and love it. In addition to showing up for town events, LaFrankie also makes house visits, delivering Christmas trees and talking with the children.
To get into costume, LaFrankie simply colors his beard with white highlighter, arches his back to stick out his belly, puts on the red suit and uses his best “Santa voice.”
“You’ll get the little kids that are totally terrified of Santa, and then you’ll get the kids that see you coming half a block away and come up and jump into your arms, and they are so excited to see Santa. It just touches my heart,” LaFrankie said.
He said his favorite event is playing Santa on Christmas Eve at the Stephen C. West Ice Arena in Breckenridge.
“I play hockey three nights a week, so I know how to ice skate very well. So I go out with the kids on the ice and hold hands,” LaFrankie said.
Last year, LaFrankie said he got to be part of a proposal at the ice rink on Christmas Eve.
“It’s just those kind of little things that keep me going,” LaFrankie said.
As Summit County grows in popularity as a destination to spend the holidays, LaFrankie said he receives more calls for house visits. Until this year, he’d been accessible only by word of mouth, but he now has a Facebook page called Summit Santa.
“I love doing it because of the children,” LaFrankie said. “I love putting that smile on faces, and believe it or not, there’s probably just as many or more adults that are more excited to see Santa than the kids are.”
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