Christmas comes early for summer Santa

By Photo provided

By Joyce L. Miller
Lake Sun Leader
Tue Jul 22, 2008, 12:20 AM CDT

Lake of the Ozarks, Mo. - Christmas came early this year. Instead of waiting until Dec. 25, the infamous Santa that has been spotted ploughing the waters of Lake of the Ozarks on his personal watercraft made his rounds during the July 4th holiday to visit with as many kids and adults as possible.

Its become a tradition for Richard Luelf, of Lake Ozark and Kentucky, to cruise the lake in mid-summer dressed as Santa Claus reminding kids and adults alike that the jolly old elf is alive and well and keeping an eye of whos being good.
This year Luelf figures he visited more than 150 kids and adults on July 4th.

Coming to the lake is supposed to be about having fun, he said. And, this is fun. I think the adults enjoy it as much as the kids. Youll see them line up along the railings when we go past and they get so excited. I am heavy set so I can fill the suit.
Luelf, 64, is a bit hard to catch up with these days. Nothing slows him down. He and his wife keep a home at the lake but their primary residence is in Kentucky. When at the lake, he manages to keep busy fishing, hitting buckets of balls at the golf course and, of course, planning his next Santa excursion.

In Kentucky, he plays golf and still manages to find time to work as a sales representative. His salesmanship shows through when he dons the suit. Young and old, Luelf always poses the same question do you still believe in Santa? More often than not, the answer is a resounding yes.
After all, how could you not, he said.

This year after making his appearance on the lake, he returned to Kentucky and visited a golf course. He keeps Santa suits at both homes so he never has to worry about being without his bright red suit.

Its not just in July that Luelf takes on the role of Santa Claus. In December, he often plays Santa for groups and always enjoys himself.

I remind everyone to be good and to be sure to leave lots of cookies and milk for Santa and the reindeer, he said.

Hes not really sure how he got started doing the Santa in July. It may have been after hearing about a radio promotion but whatever the catalyst was, hes never given a thought to giving it up.

As long as my health holds out, Ill be doing it, he said.
Not only do the kids out on the lake get a kick out of seeing Santa pulling up on PWC, hes grown children and grandchildren think its great fun. Hes always liked Christmas and this, to him, seems like the perfect way to keep the spirit of holidays around just a little big longer.

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