The 27-year journey is not complete for Pocatello’s Mr. and Mrs. Claus
Published at | Updated at
POCATELLO — Perhaps it’s his figure. Maybe the long white hair complete with a matching beard he hasn’t shaved since his senior year in high school. Or maybe it’s his jovial demeanor. But even when he isn’t in his homemade red and white suit, children see Steven “Grizz” Andrews and immediately identify him as Santa Claus.
Grizz and his wife, Sue, have been southeast Idaho’s own Mr. and Mrs. Claus for more than a quarter-century, visiting schools, parties and shopping centers to spread the Christmas spirit.
“It’s the joy of giving is what we celebrate,” Grizz told EastIdahoNews.com
Grizz and Sue’s journey began 27 years ago with a request from a close friend.
Theo Anderson, who Grizz said had been playing Santa for “eons,” was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 1994. Unable to carry the mantle any further, Anderson asked Grizz to fill in for him at engagements that had already been scheduled.
Grizz did so and had done it every Christmas season until last year, when he was sidelined with his own health ailments, along with COVID-19 concerns.
“I’m sure Theo up in heaven is looking down and laughing every time I go do Santa Claus because I really didn’t want to start doing this,” he said. “Had he not helped me so much in my life, I probably wouldn’t have done it.”
An Inkom native, Grizz was living in Blackfoot at the time, and toured Blackfoot schools as Santa for three or four years, he said. Then he and Sue decided that a team effort would add to the joy.
“This is the present. This is why we do this together — it’s a present we give to each other,” Sue said. “It’s the joy. It’s the tired feet.”
Twelve years ago, the couple moved to Pocatello, bringing the Santa spirit with them.
Their seasonal visits started with Gate City Elementary, where their granddaughter was a student — though she honored their requests to keep her grandparents’ true identities a secret.
Not long after, Grizz and Sue got permission to visit the shoppers at Costco in Pocatello, handing out peppermint balls and giving glad tidings.
A decade later, the couple was so active at Costco, hospitals — until security rules made those visits difficult — and elementary schools from Pocatello to Montpelier, that their annual purchase of bulk peppermint balls had grown to 240 pounds.
The candies are the same every year, but as Sue said, the recipients change and evolve. Because of how busy they get normally, the couple has seen families grow — and have been provided photo evidence.
Pictures taken by parents that began with an infant now show a middle-schooler with their younger siblings. And teens who begrudgingly stood between Mr. and Mrs. Claus at their parents’ request now have photos of their own children with the same couple.
Growth is not only evident in the people with whom they interact, but Grizz and Sue have grown in their own way.
Over the years, the duo has grown accustomed to the questions and challenges children offer. And they have developed the best responses — even tying in lessons the child has recently received.
Several years ago — the couple remembers names and faces but in so many years of playing their roles have understandably lost a crystal grasp on time — Grizz was visiting a sixth-grade science class in Montpelier. After using Einstein’s theory of relativity to explain his ability to travel the globe in a single night, the teacher pulled him aside and said in awe that the class had just completed a block of lessons dealing directly with Einstein’s theory.
For younger classes, the couple promotes the benefits of reading, recommending their favorite books and reading Christmas classics. They also read some stories written and illustrated by Sue herself.
Sue is quite the creator. She made the Santa suit Grizz wears, and she is an accomplished painter responsible for the artwork that covers nearly every wall in the couple’s home.
She has also written tales explaining that leaves fall in autumn the way they do because after being stuck to a tree all summer they are finally free to dance, and that candy canes give reindeer the ability to fly.
She joked that her creativity comes from her necessary disconnection with reality.
“I will come down to reality from time to time to check on Grizz,” she said. “But don’t expect me to stay — it’s crazy down here.”
This light-hearted way of giving has led to the absence of Grizz and Sue being felt by many in the Pocatello area. As they run errands around town, they will often be recognized by adults who ask if they plan on filling their costumes this year.
But due to continued health concerns, Mr. and Mrs. Grizz Claus will once again leave a void in 2021.
However, asked if they plan on returning once they have received a clean bill of health, Sue answered without hesitation.
“Oh, yes,” she said.
Grizz added that he intends to buy material for Sue to make him a new, thinner suit this summer because, as he said, “Santa gets hot.”
“Christmas is a giving thing,” Grizz said. “We’re celebrating, but we’re also celebrating the fact that we want to give to other people. That’s kind of why we started doing this together — because it was our present to each other. We can go out there and have fun with other people together.”