Santa House

Bringing holiday joy to the Midland area

Santa House Visitors: Click here to register!

Santa House Volunteers: Click here to sign up!

In a time of uncertainty Santa Claus will return to the Santa House in Downtown Midland this holiday season on Saturday, November 28. However, the Santa House will operate differently this year due to COVID-19.

The Santa House, located at the corner of M-20 and Main Street, is a holiday staple in the Midland community. The present house was built in 1987, with assistance from the Midland Area Community Foundation (MACF) and generous donors. It continues to operate annually, thanks to the donation of time from volunteers and to endowed funds held at MACF that support the yearly operation of the house.

“The Santa House is an inclusive place where any child can come share a free visit with Santa Claus,” said Sharon Mortensen, President and CEO of the Midland Area Community Foundation. “Although we’re forgoing the traditional Santa Arrival and Courthouse Lighting, we’re excited to offer two options for households to have Santa House experiences in 2020. We’ll be offering a socially-distanced, in-person option, as well as a virtual option via Zoom.”

This year, the Santa House’s operations will look different. Here are safety precautions being taken for in-person Santa visits:

  • Reservations are required to be made in advance, allowing for contact tracing. Time slots are limited.
  • Drop-in visits to the Santa House will not be permitted.
  • COVID-19 screening for all households and volunteers will occur prior to entry to the Santa House.
  • Masks will be required by all Santa House volunteers and visitors, with the exception of children under the age of two.
  • A protective barrier, equipped with a ventilation system, will be between Santa Claus and households to facilitate a contactless experience.
  • The Santa House will be disinfected thoroughly between visits.
  • For those who would prefer a digital Santa experience, video conferencing time slots will be available through Zoom.

As in past years, volunteers will be called upon to facilitate visits with Santa by stepping into the role of, “elf.” Volunteers who would like to help assist with in-person Santa excursions will be surrounded by all the wonders of the Santa House for three-hour timeslots. Volunteers who wish to administer Zoom calls on behalf of Santa will be helping bring Christmas joy for one-and-a-half-hour increments.

“The individuals who graciously donate their time are a key component of operating the Santa House,” said Mortensen. “It’s our desire to provide as many opportunities for households to visit Santa as possible, but the amount of Santa experiences we’re able to provide will depend on our ability to fill our 265 volunteer time slots.”

Those seeking to volunteer and help offer the Santa House experience can visit midlandfoundation.org/santahouse or call 989-839-9661 to sign up for a time slot. Once volunteer timeslots are filled, those seeking to visit Santa will be able register a timeslot for households. The registration link for households will also be located at midlandfoundation.org/santahouse. Additional information can be found on the Santa House Facebook page at facebook.com/santahousemidland.

The Midland Area Community Foundation is following CDC guidelines and actively consulting with the County of Midland Health Department. All Santa House visits are subject to change based on current local, state, and national guidance. The health and safety of Santa, visitors, and volunteers are a top priority for Midland Area Community Foundation.

For questions related to the Santa House or anything else MACF related, contact MACF directly at 989-839-9661 or info@midlandfoundation.org.

Location

The Midland Santa House is located on the corner of Main St. and M-20 in Downtown Midland. If you’re looking up directions from a GPS, we are directly across the street from the First United Methodist Church.

The Northern Star

The Northern Star Train will not be running this season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

When operational, The Northern Star Train providse tours of downtown Midland during the Santa House season. The train takes from the Midland County Courthouse (Main St.) and takes a 10-15 minute trip before safely bringing passengers back to the courthouse.

Volunteers

Volunteers are needed throughout the month of December for the Santa House and digital Zoom Santa visits. Shifts are between 1.5 – 3 hours each and correspond with the Santa’s timeslots. To sign up, please contact Laura Dittenber at 989.839.9661 or email info@midlandfoundation.org.

Sign Up To Voluneer

Courthouse Lighting

The Courthouse Lighting will not be taking place in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s a magical evening each year when the lights go on in front of Midland’s courthouse and, for many children and adults, the holidays begin! Every year the courthouse lighting heralds Santa’s arrival and the opening of his house for visitors young and old alike.

Courthouse Lighting History

The tradition began in the 1930s when Mrs. Herbert H. Dow made sure that small trees decorated with many tiny lights were placed around the Midland County Courthouse each Christmas season. According to those who remember, it was truly a lovely sight.

Today the Midland Area Community Foundation continues the tradition by sponsoring, with earnings from the Gilbert and Eleanor Currie Christmas Lighting/Santa House Endowment Fund, the seasonal displays and the Santa House. Working in close cooperation with Midland County, the City of Midland, and numerous volunteers, the Foundation offers this experience as a gift to the people of the Midland area.

Before World War II (1941), the courthouse was a great deal smaller and Main Street considerably less populated. No large Methodist Church stood across the street. During those years, Mrs. Dow arranged for a display each season.

During the war years there were no lights. Beginning in the late 1940s, Gil Currie and his friend Bob Wilson, who owned a business across the street, decided it was time for a holiday display once again. Gil and Bob, men who were still children at heart, loved Christmas lights and worked to establish a tradition which is still enjoyed today.

By the 1950s, Main Street had changed and the courthouse expanded to its present size. Something unique was needed. Wally Bronner of Frankenmuth helped develop the ideas and sketched out a plan.

There were many amusing tales surrounding the creating of the first displays – the time it took three trips to the forest and three trees before one was perfect enough for the center of the “traditional” section; the building of the first gingerbread house using the Currie children’s toys; and the live deer that needed companionship during the night to keep them happy. Working quietly behind the scenes was Floyd Wenglikowski who sustained the glow of lights and maintained the displays.

When the lights are turned on and the children’s happy faces glow with excitement, the project is worth the hours of planning and effort. Enjoyment for the children has always been the projects main goal.

History of Midland’s Santa House

By Mary Neely, former MACF Board Chair

The present Santa House was built in 1987, thanks to the Midland Area Community Foundation and area donors. It replaced the temporary structure which needed to be erected and dismantled each year and which had fallen into disrepair. Architect Steve Barstow and Tom Valent from Gerace Construction did the research and developed the plans for the new house. Its stucco and fieldstone exterior, approved by the Historical Commission, helped Santa’s residence blend with the courthouse architecture. It featured a slanted roof for reindeer take- offs and a bay window trimmed for the holidays. The building’s interior was a wonderful mixture of two lofts filled with holiday displays, a fieldstone fireplace, a Grandfather’s clock and a carved chair for Santa. Throughout the house elves were busily at work – truly a joy to behold.

Gerace Construction Company and other contractors eagerly stepped forward when they heard about the project and proceeded to build the house. Under Steve Barstow’s watchful eye and Gerace Construction’s leadership, Blasy Electric, Pat’s Gradall, Haddix Lumber, 4-D Builders, Fisher Sand and Gravel, Brandle Roofing, Ramar Construction, France Electric, Cook’s of Midland, Dow Chemical Company, Ritter Signs, and many anonymous donors made the dream a reality. Once completed the Santa House was given to Midland County. The agreement was that it be made available to the Midland Foundation each year in November, December and January for Santa’s use. In October, the Charles W. Howard Santa Claus School, the oldest and only non-profit Santa School in the world is held for three days in Midland’s Santa House.

In 1997 a Glockenspiel was added to the House made possible by a gift from the Dow Chemical Company in celebration of their 100th Anniversary. Shutters were also added thanks to the generosity of Mrs. Anderson (Dorothy) Arbury.

Because of Tom Valent’s imagination, creativity and direct line to Santa, new displays magically appear each year which allow thousands of children, their families and friends to experience fantasy and excitement. The Santa House is truly a meaningful bit of Midland history. Let us hope that it will continue to bring holiday happiness to all for many years to come.