Colbert grows up from spectator to St. Nick

Published 12:00 am Sunday, December 22, 2002

NATCHEZ &045; He’s got the physique. He’s got the jolly demeanor. He even has the beginnings of a white beard.

And when he puts on the red suit and pointed cap, the transformation will be complete.

Local attorney Kevin Colbert, this year’s designated St. Nick, has been an active member of the Santa Claus Committee since the early 1980s, riding each year through the candy-strewn streets of Natchez.

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But before then, Colbert was, like everyone else who grew up here, an eager spectator.

&uot;As a kid I could remember hearing the sirens,&uot; he said. &uot;That’s how you knew the parade was coming.&uot;

Colbert’s enthusiasm for the annual event hasn’t diminished. In his 20-odd years on the committee, he’s only missed one or two parades. &uot;It was when I was off at school,&uot; he said.

Riding in the parade, Colbert said, is something he always enjoys.

&uot;Some members have never been in the parade,&uot; he said. &uot;I think they’re missing out.&uot;

Colbert said it’s not just the raucous fun &045; it’s no secret that the committee members are a mirthful bunch &045; or the camaraderie &045; some of Colbert’s old friends who come in from as far away as Houston and Memphis to participate.

The underlying purpose of the committee is to provide gifts for children who wouldn’t otherwise have much to celebrate.

Colbert said the most satisfying part of the day is always distributing those presents.

&uot;That’s what it’s all about,&uot; he said.

Of course, this year’s parade will be a little different for Colbert.

He said he’s being talking to past Santas to get an idea of what he’s in for.

What really impressed Colbert was how fondly each past Santa remembered his day at the front of the parade.

&uot;They say it’s one of the most special days of their life,&uot; he said.

Apparently, there’s something about the wig and beard and fuzzy red garments that change a regular guy into something entirely different.

&uot;The kids actually believe you’re Santa Claus,&uot; Colbert said. &uot;It’s the magic of the suit. After about an hour, you start believing it yourself.&uot;