Pure joy

Sarah Jackson, Alfred and Santa
Photo by Tracy Walsh

Do you believe in Santa Claus?

I do, of course. I know he’s up there at the North Pole right now, magically creating toys for all little boys and girls around the world with help from elves, reindeer and holiday magic.

I also believe in the incredible power of the Christmas spirit.

And nowhere have I seen it shine brighter than at Bachman’s on Lyndale Avenue in Minneapolis, where the Twin Cities’ most famous local Santa, Mike Mann, has spent the past 10 years bringing joy to families every holiday season.

I mean, just look at him. Is there a better Cover Star than Santa himself?

I promise you’ll love his story, including how he came to be a local institution — along with his indispensable, beloved, charming and hilarious elf, Albert (Kevin Dutcher), a local thespian, playwright and 24-year veteran of Bachman’s holiday play.

These guys give up their holiday-season weekends to perform for — and engage in endless photos ops with — thousands of children and families, including many who have built entire family traditions around the Santa-and-Albert phenomenon.

“We look forward to it every year,” Dutcher said. “There aren’t many other jobs that allow you to feel such waves of love from people of all ages. I want to do this for as long as I can.”

As for Mann, who is a storyteller by trade: “I’ve reached an age where I could easily retire if I wanted to, but I don’t fish and I don’t golf — I tell stories. People look for deeper meaning in their life when they retire, but my work already provides me with great meaning.”

To meet Mann — especially when he’s in costume — is to meet Santa himself (even though his proverbial bowl full of jelly isn’t real).

He has a twinkle in his eye and kindness in his heart. And Albert is the perfect foil for a legend so large. He’s silly, but also smart and as warm and caring as Mr. Claus.

I’m so honored and delighted to have them both in our magazine.

As I write this, it’s the night before the first snowfall of the season in our fair Twin Cities.

And I’m finding getting in the holiday spirit easier than ever.