Arts and Culture

It’s Christmas Eve, which means that one Louisville Santa Claus is just finishing up his busy season.

Tom Dobbins has been impersonating Santa — and embodying the holiday spirit — for 26 years.

Last year, WFPL Arts and Culture Reporter Ashlie Stevens took listeners inside Dobbins’ world…a world that includes a living room filled with Santa figurines, a real beard, multiple Santa outfits and a bathroom stocked with festive peppermint soap.

And she also uncovered part of Dobbins’ motivation. “Playing Santa” is more than a job to him:

“Dobbins believes what Santa says to kids can impact them long after the holidays are over.

He said one year, he was Santa at a Coca Cola-sponsored grocery store appearance. Dobbins noticed a man about his age watching him from the corner of the store. After about fifteen minutes of watching, once there were no children around, the man approached Dobbins.

‘He came up to me and said, ‘You can tell you really care about this kids and you like bringing them joy,’” Dobbins said. “He said, ‘I was taken away from my parent by the state. My mother used to burn cigarettes on me and I looked forward every year to see Santa Claus. He was the guy who gave me hope and joy in every year.’”

That conversation has stuck with Dobbins ever since, and it’s one he thinks about when he meets kids who ask him if he’s the “real Santa” or if Santa actually exists.”

You can listen to the piece — originally broadcast in December, 2017 — in the player above, or read more here. 

Erica Peterson is WFPL's Director of News and Programming.