2006 Convention

300+ Santas, along with their Mrs. Claus and other holiday professionals, at Branson, MO, July 2006.

The July 2006 Discover Santa Convention was the largest Santa Convention ever staged.  On July 6, 2006, according to a special news release from NORAD,  a  certain, well known holiday figure traveled down from his home high atop mother earth, in a mission to meet with hundreds of his Ambassadors.   It was the first true, ‘modern-day’, Santa Convention.

Yes, there were hundreds dressed in Red.   But who was . . .  .  THE REAL SANTA CLAUS?!

What was it like?  Sparkhill Productions filmed a documentary at the 2006 convention  interviewing hundreds of Santas, and shooting the Parade. We have put it on YouTube.

The gathering of “real” and professional Santas and Mrs. Claus was for Discover Santa, the first modern-day convention for Santas.  But were did it really start?

First Santa Convention
The Benevolent Order of Santa Claus held the world’s first Santa Claus Convention, in 1939, at the Hotel St. George in New York City. Fourteen Santa Claus attended. (Source: Phil Wenz – Santa Claus Oath Foundation)

In 1937, the Benevolent Order of Santa Claus was organized in New York to promote a positive image of Santa through out department stores in the United States. The group The group grew from a handful of men, including Charles W. Howard, to more than forty members by 1939. 

The year prior, in 1938, Howard started his Santa School, which has trained thousands of Santas in its over seventy-five years of existence.   Now managed and owned by the Valent family in Michigan, it has been featured in thousands of newspaper and magazine articles and in  hundreds of radio and television news programs and documentaries.

C.W. Howard’s school, the meetings and convention are the benchmarks from which all Santa Schools, organizations and associations have evolved.

World Congress of Santa Claus
Originally, in 1957, the Santas were all employees or business owners at Bakken. Today, upwards of  75 Santas plus holiday artists, from all corners of the world, attend the World Congress held each July.

In 1957, Professor Tribini, the spokesperson and marketing guru of the Dyrehavsbakken amusement park (usually shortened to Bakken) north of Copenhagen,  came up for the idea of a World Congress of Santas.  It  began with just local men from different countries dress as Santa or the gift giver from their home country. 

The following year and in years to follow, Santas from other countries began going to Bakken.  It is a special theme park marketing promotion with anywhere from 20 to as many as 75 Santas, plus other holiday professionals . 

Today, Santas from different countries travel to Denmark each July for three days of socializing, some sightseeing tours, and each afternoon a parade and working in the theme park, posing for photos with visiting tourists.

Discover Santa 2006

But, Branson was the first “true convention,” with workshops, a vendor fair and lots of events and networking.  It was attended by over 300 Santas, plus Mrs. Claus and Holiday professionals, over 530 in all.

It all evolved out of Santa Tim Connaghan’s “School4Santas!”   He had been traveling around the United States for a few years, teaching his schools.  And along the way he was also involved with a major national Santa Association.   The Santas were asking, when would all of them get together.   So Santa Tim, who in a previous careen was a meeting planner and director of a Convention Center, decided to create a Santa Convention.

Branson Missouri was chosen as Santa Tim had worked for Lawrence Welk Resorts and knew of the City’s reputation.   It was also central to most of the United States.   And the cost of hotel rooms and shows was very reasonable.

Originally the idea was to call the convention, “Where’s Santa?”  But that name was already taken by a well know book.  Using a Thesaurus, a search was done for alternatives to “where,” and the word “discover.” seemed to stand out.  So the convention name chosen was “Discover Santa!”For the many tourists visiting Branson, they would “Discover Santa,” hundreds of them!   And for the Santas and Mrs. Claus attending, they too, would ‘discover’ more about Santa, through workshops, networking and socializing.

One result of that convention was the creation of many local, regional and national Santa associations.  Today there are over forty associations, representing an estimated 4,000 Santas, plus their Mrs. Claus’!  So it only seems proper that all of them be invited to again gather in Branson, to return for a week of sharing, networking and celebration!

One of the most popular and successful conventions ever held in Branson was Discover Santa, it seemed only logical for Branson to invite the Santas to return.   Click here to see the Branson CVB Video “Even Santa Vacations in Branson!”  Music by Jim Stafford

Details for this 2016 Convention are being managed again by Santa Tim, and by Taunya Lay at Branson Ticket and Travel.  We are also  coordinating  with the Branson Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, Chamber of Commerce and many local attractions and businesses.