Holiday spirit alive and well in July

Santa on Nairn back thanks to community spirit

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ELMWOOD

A lot of folks in the Elmwood area are going to find themselves on Santa’s ‘nice’ list this holiday season.

Area residents and those who commute along Nairn Avenue have likely noticed a friendly Santa — known as ‘Santa on Nairn’ greeting passersby with a smile and seasonal attire. On July 3, vandals knocked St. Nick off his stand at 641 Nairn Ave. and smashed him to pieces.

Nicole and Richard Holm are the caretakers of Santa on Nairn Ave. The iconic East Elmwood statue, located at 491 Nairn Ave., was recently vandalized beyond repair. However, a grassroots GoFundMe campaign has replaced the statue and covered costs of installing security cameras to keep an eye on Saint Nick.

“He was dressed in Canada Day garb and Canada flags and all that,” said Richard Holm, who curates Santa on Nairn’s attire with his wife, Nicole. “He was irreparable.”

“I was so upset when he got broke,” Nicole said.

The Holms have been caring for Santa on Nairn since their neighbour, Terry Haluik, moved last October. Before that, Haluik had taken care of Santa for about a year and a half.

“Every time he’d be outside changing him, people honked or waved,” Nicole said. “We always get waves and honks when we change him for the season or whatever.”

“At one point someone dropped off a gift card to our neighbour when he was doing it, a Dollarama gift card, to help dress up Santa,” Richard added. “When we got him, we built the stand. I’ve been enjoying it, it’s fun.”

On July 3, Nicole took a picture of the damaged Santa and put it on the Elmwood-East Kildonan community Facebook page. Hundreds of replies poured in, expressing sadness and frustration that a beloved neighbourhood landmark had been vandalized. One area resident offered to start a GoFundMe page to replace Santa, and within a few days, the $250 needed to buy a new St. Nick had been raised.

“Then, people were going, ‘How can you guarantee Santa’s safety?’” Richard said. “Someone suggested security cameras. So the guy running the GoFundMe page updated the rate, bumping it up to $500. That was raised in less than a week.”

Santa arrived last week, and the cameras are en route. The new stand is expected this week, with Santa expected to be back in action for the Terry Fox Day long weekend.

“It’s so nice that we have so much support,” Nicole said. “We didn’t know if we would be able to put a new Santa up.”

“ I was so upset when he broke.

“And we didn’t know how much it was liked in the community,” Richard added. “The delivery guy just now asked, “When’s Santa coming back?” Another time, when I was decorating him, the mailman stopped to say how much he enjoyed seeing Santa every day. I’d like to know how many smiles Santa puts on people’s faces every day.”

Earlier this year, Nicole had started a Facebook page for Santa on Nairn, which posts updates and takes suggestions on his upcoming outfits. The page now has nearly 300 followers.

“We’ve had requests for birthdays, but we just can’t do that, or we’d be doing it every day,” Richard added.

Any extra funds donated to the campaign will be used to buy motion-sensor lights, then go towards buying new outfits for Father Christmas.

“This is something we enjoy,” Richard said. “We’ll continue it as long as we can.”

Visit Santa on Nairn on Facebook for more information.

Sheldon Birnie

Sheldon Birnie
Community Journalist

Sheldon Birnie is a reporter/photographer for the Free Press Community Review. The author of Missing Like Teeth: An Oral History of Winnipeg Underground Rock (1990-2001), his writing has appeared in journals and online platforms across Canada, the U.S. and the U.K. A husband and father of two young children, Sheldon enjoys playing guitar and rec hockey when he can find the time. Email him at sheldon.birnie@canstarnews.com Call him at 204-697-7112

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