After serving as Santa for a decade, Don Roberts is honored as Noblesville Holiday Parade grand marshal
After hearing the wishes of thousands of young children for the past nine years as Santa, Don Roberts was given his own gift this winter – grand marshal of the annual Noblesville Christmas Parade.
“I’m just as honored as I can be,” the longtime Noblesville resident said. “I’ve been Santa for nine years and this makes my 10th year. I’m retiring after this Christmas, they need some young fellas.”
For many years, the Santa house on the downtown Noblesville Courthouse Square was an annual tradition. After an absence of it for several years, Roberts pressed the Hamilton County Historical Society build a new Santa house.
“I said I will build it, insulate it, paint it, take it away and if necessary, I will be Santa Claus,” said the Navy veteran and retired Noblesville High School teacher.
The Hamilton County Commissioners approved the request to have the house on the Courthouse Square in 2001. True to his word, Roberts built the house and has served as one of the Santas each year since then.
“Many people in Noblesville are grateful to Don for the guidance he provided to them as a teacher,” said Mayor John Ditslear. “There is another, younger generation of people who don’t know Don as himself but only as ‘Santa’ and that group of young people is equally as grateful to him.”
An asset to the community, the Santa House provides a chance to greet Santa for more than just Noblesville residents. Roberts said the lack of local opportunities has caused residents from other Hamilton County cities and towns, Anderson, Lapel and even Elwood to travel to our city.
“People come to Noblesville and line up and the harder I work the longer the line gets,” he said. “The line goes on and on . . . I go two hours before I can stand up and stretch my legs.”
Roberts said 95 percent of the Santa House guests are perfectly behaved, 1 percent is “really weird” and the other 4 percent is “so sad you don’t believe it.” Roberts said his heart breaks when he hears how a little girl’s mother is in prison or when a boy said all he wanted for Christmas was a pair of shoes.
“I have a mobile phone and a pad of paper and pen. If a kid needs a pair of shows I will see to it he gets a pair of shoes,” said Roberts. “It’s just sad sometimes.”
While he hears the occasional sad story, the smile on the faces of young children makes all of his hard work with it.
“When that door opens and a little 4-year-old girl runs over with her arms spread, dressed in her Sunday best, and jumps in your lap and says ‘Santa, I love you.’ That is why I do it,” he said.
But his time as Kris Kringle doesn’t end once he leaves the Santa House. Those who might miss their chance to get photographs with Santa stop Roberts on the way to his car or event once he is in his car. Roberts said on one occasion a person knocked on his window, and as soon as he lowered it, a baby was handed through the window and their picture was taken.
“It has gotten overwhelming,” he said.
Roberts planned to volunteer as Santa, but after the first year, he received a check from the city of Noblesville for his time. Surprised, Roberts told the city a mistake was made, which they insisted it wasn’t. True to the red outfit he wears, Roberts took his check and donated the amount to the Red Cross – something he has done every year since.
“I’ve helped a lot of families on my own,” he said. “It just seems fun to help someone. (Having) that giving spirit.”
When he is not wearing his red suit, Roberts stays active in the community a member of the Hamilton County Historical Society and First United Methodist Church, owning properties around Noblesville, working construction and being co-owner of Noblesville Airport with fellow former NHS teacher Larry Jacobi.
“We went to borrow a quarter of a million dollars and they loaned it to us,” said Roberts. “My part was paid off in a year and a half.”
Roberts said the small airport located on Promise Road is home to 30 airplanes. He is currently helping his grandson learn to fly.
“He’s 15 years old and takes off and lands as good as I do,” he said with a smile.
Meet Don Roberts
Residence: Noblesville Airport
Birthplace: Grant and 16th streets in Noblesville
Education: Graduated from Noblesville High School in 1956 and Ball State University in 1960 with a degree in industrial education
Work: Roberts served aboard Essex CB59 in the Navy before teaching 25 years at Noblesville Schools.
Hobbies: “I like to work with wood, build doll houses.”
What is your favorite thing about Noblesville? “I just have a lot of memories on the Courthouse Square. It’s a wonderful place to live. Noblesville has a lot to offer.”
How has Noblesville changed in your 75 years? “The growth. In 1960, the population was 5,575 and the population never changed much. For 25 to 30 years it was the same population.”
Personal Motto: “The first thing you learn in aviation is to keep your nose up and wings level and you’ll never crash.”
Santa Claus Hours
Come visit Santa Claus at his house on the Noblesville Courthouse Square and tell him what you’d like for Christmas! Families may bring their own camera and take photos at no charge. Santa will be in his house on the following days: 3 to 5:30 p.m. Sunday; 1 to 4 p.m. Dec. 1, 2, 8, 9, 15, 16, 22 and 23; 4:30 to 8:30 p.m. Dec. 7; 4 to 7 p.m. Dec. 13 and 20; and noon to 3 p.m. Dec. 24.
On Sunday, Dec. 7 from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., Dec. 8 and 15, stop by the tent next to Santa’s house and enjoy a free cup of cocoa, thanks to Noblesville Main Street.
Noblesville Holiday Parade
Sunday’s parade will begin at 2 p.m. The parade starts at 16th Street and Harrison Street and will travel south on 16th to Logan Street, west on Logan to Ninth Street, north on Ninth to Monument Street, and east on Monument to 16th Street. For more information, visit www.cityofnoblesville.org.