Montgomery takes on new role as Kris Kringle

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Ritchie Montgomery has played many characters as an actor, but Friday he’ll suit up for one of his most important roles. Montgomery was tapped as this year’s Santa Claus for the Natchez Santa Claus Committee and will parade through town spreading Christmas joy and candy before handing out toys to selected needy children at Braden School Auditorium.

The Santa Claus Committee was formed in approximately 1928 as a group dedicated to helping children who would not have a merry Christmas otherwise. Now the group has grown to more than 300 individuals who pay dues to participate in the Christmas Eve celebration.

Though called the Santa Claus Committee, the group is benevolent year round making donations to local charities including Natchez Children’s Home Services, the Natchez-Adams Humane Society, Pleasant Acre Day School, the Guardian Shelter and the Sunshine Shelter.

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This year the group has contributed more than $12,000 to local charities.

Montgomery is the 82nd person to pose as the man in red, and it’s a position he is proud to fill.

“My dad was Santa Claus in 1988, and anytime I can feel like I’m following in his footsteps, I’m happy,” Montgomery said. “I think he would be proud that I was Santa and proud of the work the committee is still doing.”

To get ready for his latest starring role, Montgomery had to have a few alterations made to the hand-me-down red suit that has been worn by many Santa Claus Committee Santa’s, including one in particular.

“My mom says this is the suit my dad wore, and that is what I really wanted,” he said.

But when Montgomery puts it on it will be suited just for him and a little extra.

“I picked up the suit from San-Jay’s earlier and she told me ‘Santa’s not on Slim Fast. We’re going to have to fatten you up,’” Montgomery said.

To fill in Santa’s famously rotund belly, extra padding was added to the already-padded suit, and Montgomery has picked out a real-looking mustache and beard to fully transform into character.

“I thought since I’m an actor I should probably do this right,” Montgomery said. “I picked up the beard in Atlanta and glue it on, instead of (just tying it on.)”

Before giving out toys at Braden, the committee, with Santa in tow, will parade around the city throwing candy to children and families watching the festivities.

The parade will begin at approximately 8:25 a.m. and will travel through town until approximately 11:15 when the committee will arrive at Braden to give out gifts.

The parade route will travel through the Oakland, Brooklyn, Brookfield, Montebello, Eastbrook and Westover subdivisions before the first stop at 9:15 a.m. on Homochitto Street.

The parade will resume at 9:45 and hit the Dunkerron and Highland subdivisions before the second stop at a private gathering at Beau Pré Country Club.

From there, at 10:45 a.m., the parade will go through the Trees and Fatherland subdivision in route to Braden to give out gifts.

After all the gifts are handed out the parade will travel to the Natchez Convention Center for lunch for the committee. After lunch, at 1 p.m., the convoy will continue to the Natchez Children’s Home where Santa and the children will sing songs before proceeding to the fifth stop on Orleans Street.

At 2:40 p.m. the parade will start its last leg traveling through Oakhurst and Roselawn subdivisions before ending on Glenwood Drive at approximately 3:10 p.m..

All times on the route are approximate.

Montgomery said seeing the children’s faces at the stops and during the parade makes the day one he enjoys being a part of it.

“There is such joy and wonderment in their eyes,” he said. “For some of these kids, this is the only Christmas they will have, so I’m happy to be a part of it.

“I can’t think of any better way to spend Christmas Eve, and then getting to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ the next day makes for a perfect weekend.”