DENVER, Colo. — Dressing up as Santa Claus isn't exactly the most conventional occupation, but it's one Mike Cawthra takes on each year with pride.
"It’s the most satisfying job you could ever imagine," Cawthra said.
This Christmas season, Cawthra and a lot of other Santas will be quite busy.
"Our big events for corporate, private organizations and virtual parties, those begin this weekend. I have bookings through after New Year's," Susen Mesco said.
Mesco has run the Professional Santa Claus School in Denver for 39 years. Cawthra is one of her students. Mesco also books Santa's across the country.
"About once every eight minutes, I’m getting calls of someone who wants a Santa Claus for some event," Mesco said.
"There’s a tremendous shortage of Santas," Mitch Allen said.
Allen is the founder of Hire Santa. Like Mesco, his Texas-based company finds work for Kris Kringle.
"We estimate we are down around 10 or 15% of Santas this year," Allen said.
The pandemic is the single biggest reason why, according to Mesco.
"The sad part is, COVID and COVID-related deaths have taken a great toll on the Santa industry," Mesco said.
Some who are coming back are following the model of last year, offering their services only virtually.
"They’re kind of off the table being able to go out and service a lot of our corporate parties and other things we do," Mesco said.
Mesco and Allen both say weekend openings through Christmas are nearly non-existent.
"This year, we’re finding that we’re putting more and more events into the weekdays," Mesco said.
That means Santas like Cawthra are going to have to pick up the slack.
"Even in the weekends, you have two or maybe three jobs, and that was OK," Cawthra said. "But this year, we’re finding out we’re gonna be doing possibly four jobs a day, five or six days a week."
This story was originally published by Gary Brode at KMGH.