EagleHerald Staff Writer

MENOMINEE—The Santa Claus dozens of children visited at Spies Public Library Dec. 16 was a Menominee tradition.

Matt Schick and his family have served as Santa Claus in Menominee for decades, said his wife Gail, who dressed as Mrs. Claus and sat next to Santa to double the children’s enjoyment when they visited the couple at the library.

“It’s just been very heartwarming to bring this little bit of Christmas magic to people,” Gail Schick said. “For me it’s just keeping that Christmas magic going. I still believe in Santa Claus.”

Matt Schick’s maternal great grandfather Henry Hoover Herson played Santa Claus for 35 or 40 years as long ago as 1906, she said. Schick’s grandfather Richard followed Herson in wearing the red suit and long white beard, but Matt’s father chose not to participate. Gail said she married into the Schicks’ long-standing Christmas tradition.

Matt said this year marked his 25th anniversary of sitting with children on his knee. “It’s fun to see the look on the kids’ faces,” he said.

On Dec. 16, 145 people attended Spies Public Library’s Santa Open house, where children heard a story, made a craft and were treated to live piano music and a free holiday book besides meeting the Clauses, said Abbey Hoijer, children’s librarian at the library, which is part of the City of Menominee.

Megan Zuraski said her children Kaden, 12, and Dakota, 1, enjoyed the event. “We came to see Santa,” she said.

“We always go for the events they have. My son loves reading so we rent books all the time,” Zuraski said.

The Santa open house, which was rescheduled from Saturday, Dec. 11, because of snow, was supported by Friends of the Library and volunteers from the GFWC Menominee Woman’s Club.

The Friends of the Library raises $5,000 or $6,000 a year to pay for extras like evening events and a summer reading program, said Gail Wright, president of the group. But last year it didn’t hold its fundraisers because of COVID-19. This year’s book sale was larger than usual because it wasn’t held last year. The library still has some used books for sale.

The holiday open house with Santa is a long-standing tradition. Before COVID, children would decorate cookies as a craft project, Wright said. In their own way, the group plays Santa Claus for the library year-round. This year, it paid for a new 3D printer.

“We’ve paid for an extra music program to come in, extra things the library may need that’s not in the budget that’s not way over the top,” she said.

The Schicks play an important role at the library event, but they also reach out to the community in other ways.

On Christmas Eve, Matt Schick said he makes house visits, including some at Rainbow House. “I still go to houses that have no kids. They still want Santa,” he said.

Their Schicks’ daughter will dress as an elf on Christmas Eve and help Santa make visits to family, but Mrs. Claus will be at church, Gail Schick said.

“Mrs. Claus does not go out on Christmas Eve. I will not give up my mass,” Gail Schick said. She’ll also be busy at home, “making sure Santa has his milk and cookies and is ready for his long winter nap.”