Not even Santa Claus could escape the troubled economy.
The St. Louis Grant’s Farm Christmas spectacular, where the jolly old elf sat front and center for three holiday seasons, was not making money. It had to go.
The man in the red suit got a pink slip.
So did the reindeer, the sleigh piled high with gifts and the gold throne on which Santa held court as children climbed onto his lap. The thousands of holiday lights that transformed The Bauernhof into a winter wonderland were switched off.
The news made its way through the popular tourist attraction in the summer of 2008 as Anheuser-Busch, the owner of Grant’s Farm, was about to be purchased by brewer InBev. Santa will tell you that ending the young but popular holiday tradition hurt. Right there in his jelly belly.
Little did he know redemption was just around the corner.
He says the decision at Grant’s Farm had to do with Anheuser-Busch positioning itself for a corporate buyout. Trimming the fat, if you will. The head of Grant’s Farm says it was more about the weather. Outdoor events held during St. Louis winters are always a risk, and this one was not paying off.
As Santa says, everything happens for a reason. Especially when it comes to the holiday season.
Earlier this month, the former Grant’s Farm Santa flew — by plane — to Virginia, to prepare for a new Christmas program at Busch Gardens Williamsburg. He is working for the same man who came to St. Louis in 2005 to help set up the Grant’s Farm program.
Santa takes the stage in Williamsburg today. He has spent the last three weeks perfecting his telling of “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.” The theme park wanted Santa to tell it without a script.
For Warren Moellenhoeff, it is a second chance to be Santa, although this south St. Louis resident might argue that he never stopped. Even out of the fur-trimmed suit and cap, Moellenhoeff embodies Santa.
“I get recognized wherever I go,” Moellenhoeff said. “That’s why my voice and demeanor has to be Santa Claus-like, because I might be overheard. And I can’t be rash or angry or become upset — which isn’t my way. I have to maintain that character.”
For the rest this story, plus video of the Christmas Town Santa, click here.