You've heard of Christmas in July -- for special sales and promotions or alternative birthday parties for children born near Christmas. But if you're in Branson between July 6 and 10, you'll definitely think the holiday season is here, regardless of the summer temperatures. That's because the international Santa convention is coming to town.
More than 800 Santas and Mrs. Claus from all 50 states plus Europe, Asia and Australia will attend Discover Santa 2016, along with hundreds of vendors, sponsors and friends. Red suits and long white beards will be spotted everywhere.
The event marks the tenth anniversary of the original Discover Santa convention in 2006 in Branson.
"With the July meeting in Branson, there has never been a group of Santas this large convened anywhere in the world," says Tim Connaghan, director of the convention. "Discover Santa 2016 is a five-day convention of real and professional Santas and Mrs. Claus, highlighted by 'The Parade of the Red Suits' at the Branson Landing."
The parade begins at 8 a.m. Thursday July 7, at Branson Landing. The early start is intended to beat the likely summer heat. The parade will celebrate three Santa themes -- Joy, Giving and Love.
The Spirit of Giving will be represented by St. Nicholas, the patron saint of giving, followed by representatives of local organizations that support the Branson community.
The Spirit of Joy will be represented by the Harlem Globetrotters, from Silver Dollar City's Star Spangled Summer celebration. The Globetrotters will be followed by children from the Branson Boys and Girls Club.
The Spirit of Love will feature Santas and Mrs. Claus from all around the United States plus many foreign countries. In addition, there will be celebrities, floats and, of course, Christmas music.
The parade will conclude around 9:30 a.m., with a group photo in front of the Branson Landing Fountains. This should set a world record for the most "real" and "professional" Santas and Mrs. Claus ever assembled.
The closing ceremonies on Sunday, July 10, at the Chateau on the Lake Resort, the convention headquarters, will include induction ceremonies for the Santa Claus Hall of Fame. The Santa Claus Oath Foundation will honor the newest members of the Knights of St. Nicholas and will present the Mrs. Claus Pledge.
Other convention activities will include the "SNO-lympics" games and competitions; “Meet the Kringles” fashion show; “The Kringle Family Showcase,” a special vendor fair; two days of workshops and training, plus dinner shows at the Dixie Stampede and the Showboat Branson Belle.
The Santa convention will benefit the Marin Toys for Tots Foundation.
Discover Santa 2016 is produced by Tim Connaghan of the Kringle Group, who is the National Santa for Toys for Tots, Official Santa for the Hollywood Christmas Parade, and operator of the nation’s largest Santa School.
I've been in Branson for the annual Elvis Festival, when Elvis Presley look-alikes pop up all over town. But for this Christmas baby (I was born on Christmas Day), surprise sightings of the jolly old man in red would surpass sightings of the king of Rock 'n' Roll. Ho, Ho, Ho!
Before you go:
For a fun video called "Even Santa Vacations in Branson," produced by the Branson CVB with words and music by Jim Stafford, follow this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9XCympK0tu8