Locals Take Different Paths to Becoming Mr. & Mrs. Claus
Writer / Julie Engelhardt
Discovering when Mrs. Claus first appeared on the scene results in conflicting information. One report states she is first mentioned in an 1849 short story called ‘The Christmas Legend,’ written by missionary James Rees. In the story, a couple disguises themselves in angel-like clothing while traveling to seek shelter with a family.
A bit more research reveals that although there were occasional references made about Mrs. Claus in the 19th century, it wasn’t until 1881 when an issue of ‘Harper’s Young People’ featured a poem by Margaret Eytinge’s poem entitled ‘Mistress Santa Claus’ appeared, featuring Santa’s good-natured wife.
Earliest depictions of Mrs. Claus portray her as having a no-nonsense, take- charge attitude. Yet, during the last 100 years or so, her character seems to have mellowed some, and she is often depicted as kind, patient helpmate.
Barbie Mueller, who was raised in Louisville, made her first appearance as Mrs. Claus in 2008.
“I lived in Missouri at the time, volunteering at the parks and rec department,” she says. “My friend, Miss Amy, asked if I would want to be Mrs. Claus at the breakfast with Santa.”
This request hit home with Mueller, as her father had played Santa for many years for family and friends and at a local club he belonged to.
“Earlier that year, my Mama had passed away and Daddy had a stroke that left him in a nursing home,” she says. “Needless to say, it was not a good year. Nothing would be the same. When Amy asked me, I teared up, and I’ve been enjoying it ever since.”
Portraying the Claus family definitely runs in Mueller’s family, as her younger brother, Michael, now makes appearances as Santa.
Mueller keeps extremely busy as Mrs. Claus. She visits daycare centers, nursing homes, schools and retail stores.
“I love being Mrs. Claus!” she says.
Amanda Spalding is a Louisville native who now lives in Prospect. She began her journey portraying Mrs. Claus several years ago alongside her Santa husband, Jay Kluckhohn. Their first appearances began in 2018 with small events and visits, but during the past four years, they have been invited to participate in well-known events in the area.
Spalding says that she has grown significantly over the years in her role as Mrs. Claus and as a member of the Holiday Performer Community.
She’s served on the board of directors for IBRBS, which was formerly known as the International Brotherhood of Real Bearded Santas. The organization officially took on ‘IBRBS’ moniker when Mrs. Clauses were added as full members.
While on the board, she worked to help the group return to a being a more member-centric organization. Spalding also helped them move forward after COVID.
“I’ve also grown as a public speaker,” Spalding says. “I’ve been able to speak at the International Santa Organizations conference, at local organizations and I’m a subject matter expert for the Santa Nana Holiday University.
Spalding and her husband keep quite busy during the holiday season and constant marketing is key in booking appearances.
“I always have my business cards with me, and I talk to people in places that we patronize,” she says. “We’ve gotten referrals from word of mouth, and that’s how we worked with the Louisville Orchestra in 2021. I’m also working out the details for two solo Mrs. Claus events.”
They’ve even been the featured Clauses at Westport Village’s ‘All is Bright’ celebration.
Amanda and Jay have had wonderful experiences as Santa and Mrs. Claus, but Amanda says there is one moment that she will always remember.
“At Westport Village, a family from Columbia was walking by us. The children were whispering about Santa. The whole family’s eyes lit up when I wished them a Merry Christmas and asked what they wanted for Christmas in Spanish. And it’s always awesome when the children shout “It’s Santa and he brought Mrs. Claus!”
In last year’s edition we featured Laura Jo Uber’s husband, Michael, who can be seen zipping around Oldham County and Louisville in his little, red, toy car with Laura sitting right beside him.
Uber began portraying Mrs. Claus in 2011 when Michael began his Santa journey.
“I almost exclusively appear only in tandem with my hubby Santa,” she says. “I wanted to be his Mrs. Claus because it seemed it would be fun and extraordinarily effective since we have been married so long… we easily portray a married couple.”
Laura and Michael have appeared at many community events, including Light Up La Grange, sleigh rides with Santa at the Paddock Shops, a night at the Kentucky Science Center with Santa, Oldham County Day parade, Shop Small in La Grange and Boy Scouts Christmas events.
“My favorite is Light Up La Grange because we have been doing this long enough now that we see the same children that used to be babies in our laps,” says Uber. “It is also our hometown and families know us and we have a bond with many of them. We also do a very lager party for a gentleman who invites many families into his home. We see these children each year and have seen the families grow and grow.”
Portraying Mrs. Claus and Santa often takes a lot of work and research. The Ubers frequently travel to conventions where they can hone their holiday skills.
“Together, my Santa hubby and I have attended the International University for Santas school which gave a great deal of background on the history of Santa,” Uber says. We have gone to Santa gatherings in Santa Claus, Indiana, where they gave workshops on everything from makeup to sign language. They also had a market available where suits and accessories can be bought. The largest event we have done is the Discover Santa event in Branson, Missouri, where more than 750 Santas, Mrs. Clauses and elves gather to have fun and train at offered workshops.”
Donna Clontz began her journey into the Mrs. Claus world in 2011 when the Belle of Louisville was looking for someone to play Santa for their Santa cruise.
Clontz was working for the Belle at that time in their accounting office, and she let them know that her husband Tom had been portraying Santa for many years for family and friends.
“They said, ‘oh, really?’ Well, maybe you guys can do it, because we need a Mrs. Claus, too!” she says.
“I was like okaaaay…,” Donna says. “I went out and got all the stuff together, the red dress, the apron and the little hat. We did the first one on the ‘Spirit of Jefferson.’ It’s always been Santa and Mrs. Claus together.”
Clontz says that during their first time as the Clauses on that cruise, they would appear from behind a screen at the back of the boat and would visit with the kids during breakfast. The kids would tell Santa what they wanted and then they would do fun activities like the limbo, the chicken dance and the Hokey Pokey.
“I help Santa. That’s kind of my thing,” Clontz says.
The Clontzes will continue to appear on the riverboat three times this year. Other appearances during the past few years also include working with the Louisville Philharmonic.
When asked what she loves most about being Mrs. Claus her answer is: “I enjoy watching Tom with the kids, it’s so cool to see. “He’s happy and the kids are just overjoyed and so excited!”