For many families in New Orleans, the Christmas season only means one thing taking photos with the famous Seventh Ward Santa Claus. He has been Santa for the past 46 years. “There have been a number of children to sit on my lap, I stopped counting years ago,” Santa said with a giggle.
When it’s not the holiday season, Santa goes by the name of Fred Parker. When not at the North Pole, Porter lives in New Orleans Bywaters’ Neighborhood. He was a bus driver for the Orleans Parish School District and every time around Christmas, he would treat his kids to McDonalds as a gift for the holidays. His first big Santa appearance was at a church Sunday school Christmas party and kids loved it so much he decided to continue doing it.
As years go by, young people start to doubt if Santa Claus is real. Either they are told by parents or even seen movies where the Santa would hide behind fake beards. Alana Williams, 19, a New Orleans native, shared how she grew up taking photos with Porter and she once stopped believing, until she pulled Seventh Ward Santa’s beard. “I made the decision to grow my own beard and tell the kids if they don’t believe pull it because it’s real,” Parker said.
When kids go sit on Santa’s lap they typically request electronic toys or princess dolls, but some ask for things not in the catalog. “A boy once asked for peace in the world, and I try not give negative answers. But all I could do was hold him and tell him that he could be the start of gaining that world peace,” Porter said with a gently smile.
Javon Bracy, 24, a Gentilly native, also grew up taking photos with Mr. Parker, “He would talk to me about how much I have grown,” Bracy said. “And even while in college he would ask me what I wanted for Christmas. He was more than just Santa to me, he was a kind friend,” said Bracy.
Last year, there was talk in the news about the Mall of America hiring an African American Santa. But here in New Orleans it has been going on for years. “Because Mr. Parker has been around for so long, many people don’t look at the color of his skin,” said Michelle Williams, a New Orleans native.
Mia Gonzales-Washington, 30, a New Orleans native, sharing her story on annually taking photos, “There are a few things that children these days experience that is identical to their parents’ childhood, and taking pictures with Mr. Parker is one of those that is just tradition,” said Gonzales-Washington.
Knowing that there are plenty of people that need a little Christmas cheer, a kind hand, or just a jolly good time is what keeps Mr. Parker dressing out as Santa every year.
You can take photos with Santa at Dennis Photofinish Ltd. Or call 504-944-5449.