Tri-Cities Santa trades in reindeer for two wheels

RICHLAND, Wash. – This Tri-Cities Santa has a sleigh that doesn’t jingle, it revs.

“Santa doesn’t just show up in his old suburban or van. I need to ride the motorcycle so the reindeer get a break ,” he said.

Behind the big, red suit is Brian Howald, a husband and father of four, from Richland. He started spreading Christmas cheer as Santa when he was just 18 years old.

“It’s not about me it’s about Santa, it’s about returning a little bit of joy. It isn’t just little kids, it’s the little kid in everyone,” he said.

But years ago, Howals, an Army veteran became wheelchair bound, which put his Santa career and most of his life, on hold. He was diagnosed with a painful muscle condition, causing him to rely on others for everyday tasks.

“Being completely unable to do things – I had a nurse for a couple years, when you can’t brush your own teeth, when you can’t write, you can’t do your own things and they expectation is, is that not going to happen again? And then to come and ask the to do this,” Howald was determined to get his family in on the Christmas cheer.

Last holiday season as the pandemic loomed on, Howald knew the Tri-Cities could use some cheer.

“I told them you know, I’m gonna get out of this chair I’m gonna come back and be Santa,” he was determined.

Howald was able to make his big return.

He said he feeds off the energy of smiling faces despite his painful condition.

“I have a lot of pain everyday and it’s completely energizing. It’s a little bit of work but that work is reciprocated in the happiness that people give us,” he said.

Howald said the support from his family and community have helped him through the tough times, especially his wife.

“She’s the perfect Mrs. Claus. She has worked to go back through school, to provide for our family while taking care of our family,” Brian said his daughter Morgan, also known as Luna Belle, joins in on the fun as his Elf.

You can find Santa around the Tri-Cities and region this holiday season at places like Ranch and Home, or John Dam Plaza.

You can even request a personal visit by going to their Facebook page.

KAPP KVEW asked Santa how he powers through on long Christmas Eve deliveries and it turns out, he does love the cookies people leave out for him.

“That sugar goes a long way on that night, and I love cocoa,” he chuckled.