Third-generation Byrne named ‘Santa Claus’

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 15, 2000

Johnny Byrne grew up with the Santa Claus Committee, and this year he will don the red suit himself. Byrne will play the part this year during Natchez’s annual Santa Claus parade, sponsored by the Santa Claus Committee.

Each year, Santa Claus is chosen by an executive committee of past Santas who meet to select a new St. Nick from among 300 members.

Byrne said that the Santa Claus Committee is &uot;something I’ve grown up with, and I’ve always wanted to do it.&uot;

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Byrne said he wasn’t expecting to be Santa Claus this soon but, &uot;it all seemed to fall into place.&uot;

On the other 364 days of the year, Byrne runs Byrne Insurance Company.

Byrne will be the first third-generation Santa Claus in the committee.

His grandfather William Byrne was Santa Claus in the 1930s and his Uncle Frank Byrne was Santa in the late 1970s. &uot;My cousins Paul Byrne and Tony Byrne have also been Santa Claus,&uot; he said. &uot;So I’ll be the fifth from the Byrne family.&uot;

&uot;I’m really looking forward to doing it,&uot; Byrne said, &uot;and the children really look forward to it, too.&uot;

On Dec. 22, Santa Claus visits the Natchez Children’s Home and gives out gifts to the children.

Because Christmas Eve falls on a Sunday this year, the annual Santa Claus parade will be held on Saturday, Dec. 23. &uot;Santa is picked up at about 8 a.m. on the day of the parade and travels through Natchez throwing candy to the children,&uot; Byrne said.

&uot;The primary reason we do it is to help less fortunate kids,&uot; Byrne said. &uot;And if people can have fun in the process, then all the better.&uot;