Here comes Santa Claus...
BY VICKI GERDES
It's the smiles that light up children's faces when the jolly old elf in the red suit appears that makes stepping into the boots of Santa Claus so enjoyable for Detroit Lakes' Marv Gregersen.
For 35 years now, Gregersen has been playing the role of St. Nick at various charity fund-raisers, company Christmas parties and the like -- first in St. Cloud, where he lived from the age of 13 until moving to Detroit Lakes in 1977, and then locally.
He has been DL Newspapers' very own Santa for about a half dozen of those years.
The first time he put on the red velvet suit was at a Christmas gathering for his then-girlfriend's family. He repeated the performance for his own nieces and nephews at subsequent family events for several years.
"I just thought it would be kind of fun," he said. "It's always fun to watch the kids' reactions, the expressions on their faces -- and it's fun to watch the parents too."
But it wasn't until he moved to Detroit Lakes that he got his first professional gig filling in for "town Santa" Jim Kivillan. Since then, he's filled the role at many local businesses, charitable events and even a private party or two.
He helped kick off the first-ever Santa's Grand Parade of Lights in DL, when about 150 kids took part in a "Wake Up Santa" event at the former Evans store. After the kids "woke" Santa, he got into his horse-drawn sleigh and they started the parade down Washington Avenue.
"We toured the town, and then went into the mall (for photos, etc.)," said Gregersen. "It (riding the sleigh) was really cool."
In fact, he enjoyed it so much that he hired the same people to give his mother-in-law a holiday light tour around the city as a Christmas present.
"She really enjoyed that," he said.
Gregersen also has made several appearances as Santa at St. Mary's Innovis Health events, as well as at local nursing homes.
A 20-year volunteer with the Detroit Lakes Department, Gregersen also served as a member of the local Lions Club for 12 years.
Currently, he provides maintenance for both St. Mary's and Detroit Lakes Newspapers.
He and his wife Beth have two grown children: daughter Laura and her husband Josh Grieger, who live in Sabin, Minn.; and son Paul, who has a photography studio in Moose Lake, Minn.