50 Years as Santa: Tower City Man Spreads Holiday Cheer for Decades
Dennis Gumke started dressing up as Santa in 1968
BUFFALO, N.D. — For the last fifty years, a Tower City man has been creating extra special memories with his beard and red hat.
Back in 1968, Dennis Gumke stumbled on an opportunity that would snowball into an annual tradition.
“We lived in Streeter and we needed a Santa for the local community days and couldn’t get one, so I stepped forward, and I’ve enjoyed doing it,” said Gumke.
In 1973 he took his reindeer and sleigh to Tower City…and for the last five years, he’s been setting up shop in the small town of Buffalo.
The smiles and the excitement have remained constant while moving to different communities…but what’s changed are the ideas from young believers.
“I had a young fellow, a young lad, tell me one day he had everything on his iPod and he showed me, ‘this is what I want’, and he says you’ll get it from Amazon and have it sent right to my house, you won’t have to haul it around in your sleigh,” Gumke said.
Dennis catches up with several families each holiday season, but one family has known him for three generations, and they say getting the chance to catch up with Santa is their favorite holiday tradition.
“He has a warm, genuine love of children, each child that sits on Santa’s lap, he listens to them, and he’s just the best, and he is truly what the Christmas spirit is all about,” said Rita Lerud of Tower City.
With chances to fly to different cities, Dennis never turned back from his small town roots.
“To me, just being Santa in your local community means so much, just to see things happen from one generation to the next, the tradition goes on,” said Gumke.
Dennis plans to continue to dress up as Santa Claus for the children in Buffalo as long as he is able.