ELLENSBURG, Wash. - Santa Claus is real and he lives in Ellensburg. At least, that's how it seems for some of the locals.
Bill Amo has been the town's Santa for the past 18 years. He slowly drives around in a little red Miata and hands out presents to any kids who cross his path.
This year alone he plans to deliver about 1,000 packages, usually filled with stuffed animals and puppets and other unisex toys.
“Packages have to be perfect because they’re coming from Santa Claus," Amo said.
He and his wife Debby pick out all the papers and boxes and ribbons and bows, making sure each one is neatly wrapped before Amo hits the streets or parking lots.
“My son was so excited,” said Ellensburg resident and mother Lena Jackson.
She said her 4-year-old son was thrilled when he received a monkey puppet from Santa in the Super 1 Foods parking lot. Amo had already drawn a small crowd of kids, handing out presents from his car and posing for photos, when they arrived.
Jackson said he has seen Ellensburg’s Santa in past years, but this was the first her son got to meet him.
It changed the way her son thinks of Santa. Now he thinks “Santa’s sleigh converts into a car and the reindeer were hiding,” Jackson said, adding that his reaction was very cute.
KAPP/KVEW asked Amo what he gets out of being Santa.
“Joy,” he replied simply.
Amo said he it takes hundreds of dollars and lots of work to spread so much Christmas cheer.
“It takes time,” Amo said. “My wife is a huge help. Mostly keeping track of things.”
He said he spends up to $1,500 out of pocket o supplies. A few years ago, Ellensburg’s Noon Rotary Club started contributing an additional $1,500a year to support his cause.
He also puts together big wrapping parties with volunteers from the rotary club, Downtown Pharmacy and a local art group called Color Matters.
Amo said he plans to continue delivering presents from his red Miata as long as he feels safe to drive.