Local Resident and Auto Enthusiast Scotty Stephany Proves Santa Doesn’t Just Drive a Sleigh

Writer / Melissa Gibson
Photography Provided

He grew up loving cars. But as an adult, racing his 1978 Mustang II coupe down the track at Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park, with a beard that had started turning white in his 20s, gold, wire-rimmed glasses, and a jolly disposition, Scotty Stephany found a new love later in life.

“Playing Santa used to be a family thing over the holidays, but about seven years ago I started growing my beard out and I thought, ‘Maybe doing this for the community is something I should pursue,’” Stephany says.Hot Rod Santa

He didn’t take the job lightly. In fact, Stephany began looking into what becoming Santa entails, and attended a five-day training session at Northern Lights Santa Academy in Atlanta.

“There were about 150 other Santas, Mrs. Clauses or elves,” he says. “You learn a lot of interesting things, like working with kids who have special needs, dressing differently for different occasions, and improv skills.”

That’s right – it makes a difference what Santa wears if he’s attending a Christmas in July event with a Hawaiian Santa shirt on, or the red and white coat we love in Christmas photos. For this particular Santa, it’s not uncommon to see him in his red “Hot Rod Santa” T-shirt and dark sunglasses, which are sure to catch your eye.

The improvisation training comes in handy too. According to Stephany, Santa can hear a long list of well-thought-out questions in his short visit with a child, and some of those questions require some seasoned improv practice.

At the Santa Academy, attendees learn how to hone their craft, and also find a network of similar-minded people who love giving back to their community. Through the school, the Navy veteran befriended a fellow Coast Guard mentor. They both became Santas in recent years.Hot Rod Santa

Back home, Stephany joined the Indiana Santa Claus Society, a nonprofit spreading Christmas cheer all year round, and the Hoosier Santas, a private Facebook group of local Santas who enjoy trading stories, talking about costume updates and more. The two groups serve the community in different ways.

For example, when attending an Indiana Santa Claus Society event, Stephany and other local Santas are traveling to towns within the state that have been ravaged by natural disasters, and delivering a trailer full of toys to children in the area.

While giving back is something Stephany loves to do, he also continues to hone his skill to be the best Santa possible.

“The Hoosier Santa guys meet about once per month to practice,” he says. “We build off of each other and even have guest Santas come in to share something new. It’s kind of like a car club, but everyone has white beards.”

Most importantly, our local Hot Rod Santa just wants to spread joy in his community.

“My greatest happiness is watching people smile,” Stephany says. “It’s hard to be in a bad mood when Santa is around and it keeps me on my toes too. You know people are watching you. If I can change someone’s day for the better in two minutes at a stop light, I’m game.”

Whether sitting in his red Ford pickup with the words “North Pole Edition” on the back at a stoplight, or interacting with families at our favorite holiday events, chances are you have encountered or will encounter Stephany throughout the season.Hot Rod Santa

Santa fans will likely see Stephany lighting the tree at Danville’s annual Christmas on the Square event, visiting with guests at the train station during Ellis Park’s Winterland Holiday Light Show, and sharing the Christmas spirit at Red Curb Comedy in Avon during their Santa photo sessions.

In addition, Stephany offers “neighbor knocks.”

“It’s something I started doing during the pandemic,” he says. “If you can get 10 of your neighbors together, I’ll stop by, house by house. It’s $25 per house and you get about 10 minutes with Santa. It’s a fun time. The kids are in their PJs and usually surprised by the visit.”

He has to cover expenses, but Stephany is all for giving back too. After all, special situations call for special people, and aside from his work with the Indiana Santa Claus Society, his goal is to donate 30 hours per year for those who need him the most.

Stephany visited his uncle as Santa toward the end of his cancer battle late this year, and it’s not uncommon, he says, to receive calls about children in sad circumstances.

“I got a call about a young girl who was losing her eyesight,” he says. “They wanted to know if I would go visit her and how much would I charge. That’s not a charge thing. That’s something we do because of who we are as people.”

It’s not just Stephany who has embraced the Christmas spirit. His family is hooked too. It’s not uncommon for Santa to arrive with a group of elves, the Grinch or other popular holiday characters, giving back to the community with that infectious holiday spirit.

“The family are full participants,” Stephany says. “I’ve picked up my grandson at high school partially dressed as Santa, and even the grandkids serve as photo props for me. When they get old enough they know I’m Santa, and they love to get involved.”

With all the good he’s doing with his family and in the community, Stephany’s never forgotten the guys at the track. His first passion keeps him coming back to racing year after year – only now, the guys are competing against their childhood icon.

“I have Hot Rod Santa T-shirts that I wear regularly, and I’ve got a custom-made, red driver’s suit. I’ve also got a helmet that looks like Santa’s hat and beard. Up next, I’ll be wrapping my race car. It’ll look like Santa’s sleigh and my grandkids will be elves hanging on the back.”

Hot Rod SantaPatches on that special suit reflect organizations close to his heart, including the Indiana Santa Claus Society, The United States Navy and a fun image of a Santa on the back, driving a hot rod with his sack of toys over his shoulder.

Of course, it’s fun and entertaining, but in Stephany’s typical fashion, his new racing gear also shows his support by adding the Indiana Santa Claus Society’s logo to the car and spreading the word every chance he gets.

His racing buddies are all in.

“Even the guys at the track put ’S. Claus’ at the top of the race ticket,” he says. “How mad can you be when you got beat by Santa Claus over the weekend? I tell everybody, you can laugh at me or with me, but we know your day changed because you stopped to laugh.”

Register at Red Curb Comedy this year for professional digital photos, both posed and spontaneous. Select dates are offered through December 21. With registration, families receive a specific time for personalized visits and avoid the long lines at traditional events. For more information, visit redcurbcomedy.com/santa.

For more information about Stephany, you can find him on Facebook @ScottyGClaus, or on Instagram @TheHotRodSanta. If interested in a visit or a “neighbor knocks” event, email Stephany at thehotrodsanta@yahoo.com.

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