Santa arrives in Clover Square. (Photo courtesy of David Tung)

Santa’s House in Clover Square welcomes holiday spirit

Cloverdale Santa’s House opens Dec. 8

On Dec. 8, Santa Claus will come into Cloverdale on top of a fire truck bearing his reindeer and sleigh.

It’s pretty neat for Santa, a 59-year-old Surrey resident named Keith Wutke.

“It’s cool,” Wutke said. “All the kids get excited to see Santa coming in.”

Wutke has been Santa for the last seven years, welcoming children of all ages into Santa’s House in Clover Square for two weeks each December.

Many people may recognize the red and white house, often known as the “Santa Hut,” as the small, square building in the middle of the Clover Square parking lot. It’s empty most of the year — during rodeo season it has been used to count votes for the chili cook off — but at Christmas comes alive with holiday magic.

“They still remember, even in the summer,” David Tung, building operator for Colliers International, said about the kids who walk past the building. “They say this was where Santa came.”

Tung has been the caretaker of Santa’s House since 2006, when Colliers took over management of Clover Square. Each year, Tung acts as Santa’s elf and takes photos of the families who come to spend time with Santa. Since Wutke came on board, the pictures have been easy to take, Tung said.

“He’s a really good Santa,” Tung said. “When you take a picture of [Wutke] his eyes really smile, [and are] really kind.”

Wutke didn’t comment on his smiling eyes, but did say you had to have patience to be a Santa.

Keith Wutke getting ready to welcome kids into the Clover Square Santa Hut in 2015.
Keith Wutke getting ready to welcome kids into the Clover Square Santa Hut in 2015.

Photo courtesy of David Tung

“You don’t want to rush the kids because then you’ll never win that one for a picture,” he said. “If they’re a little on edge and not sure, they shy away pretty fast.”

“I kind of take my time and get out of the chair and show them the toys,” he said, “try to make them feel a little more comfortable.”

Picture-taking is an important part of any elf’s job. But Tung’s work in Santa’s House begins long before Santa actually arrives.

In early December, Tung and his wife spend three afternoons decorating the inside and outside of the house. They put up the Christmas tree, decorated with stuffed bears, and festoon the windows with tinsel garlands and sparkling ornaments. Beside the red armchair, Tung fills buckets with toys and candy canes. He estimates he buys about 1,000 toys throughout the season.

“I don’t want to spend too much money, so we just go to the dollar store to gather small toys,” he said. “But it’s really different because it comes from Santa.”

It comes from Santa. Those words embody the magic that Wutke and all the Santas who came before him try to bring to the Santa Hut. For Wutke isn’t the first Claus to spend his holiday season in the red suit.

In the late 1990s, Richard MacLachlan started as the first Santa Claus in Clover Square’s hut. He was 28 at the time.

“I was young to be a Santa,” he said. But, he added, “kids don’t realize.”

MacLachlan’s intent was to give back to the community, inspired by Cloverdale icon Bill Reid, and Santa’s House was the ideal place to do that.

“It’s not a big mall Santa; it’s maybe not as fancy. But it’s community minded,” MacLachlan said. “It’s a nice little spirit.”

That spirit not only exists in the men who’ve played Santa Claus over the years — including MacLachlan’s father Doug and Wutke’s nutritionist Murray — but also the people who visit the hut throughout the season.

Last year, people who visited the Santa Hut donated $1,500 to the Surrey Food Bank — $200 less than the year before, but three times as much as when Tung first started in 2006. Wutke sometimes receives mugs of hot chocolate from appreciative parents, and last year even received a donated suit from two elderly ladies who came in for a photo. (He plans to wear the suit this year.)

Four years ago, Santa’s House received a donation of toys from a man who had some leftover presents from a work party. Among them was a jewellery box with a ballerina figurine, which Wutke kept under his chair with some excess toys.

Not too long later, Wutke had a little girl on his lap who didn’t want anything for Christmas.

“I kept trying to encourage her to pick something, if there was something,” he said. “Eventually she said, ‘I would like, I guess, a jewellery box with a ballerina girl.’

“I reached under my chair and put it in from of her face,” he continued. “You could feel the magic.”

“I bet you she’ll never forget that,” he added, then laughed. “I won’t.”

This year, Santa will be available for photos each day between noon and 4 p.m. from Saturday, Dec. 8 to Sunday, Dec. 23. Children, adults, teens and pets are welcome.



editor@cloverdalereporter.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

ChristmasCloverdale

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Walnut Grove’s Shawn Meehan (front) has started another band, Trigger Mafia. This local country rocker has put country on the shelf, and is going hard-core rock with this group, releasing their first single last Friday to radio. It started as a way to pass the time during the COVID lockdown, and evolved. (Special to Langley Advance Times)
VIDEO: Langley musician drives rock revival with COVID twist

Trigger Mafia goes straight from the garage to radio with raw lyrics

Patricia Celan, named Miss Charity seven years ago while a teen living in South Surrey, is now in postgraduate psychiatry training and was recently named Mrs. Canada International 2021. (Contributed photos)
Domestic-violence awareness a focus for former White Rock woman named Mrs. Canada International

Patricia Celan, in postgraduate psychiatry training, earned her first crown in 2013

A reminder to students at Surrey’s Strawberry Hill Elementary to physically distance during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo: Lauren Collins)
Teachers, staff should be included in contact tracing: Surrey Teachers’ Association president

STA says there is also ‘no harm in going even further’ with a mask mandate

A reminder to students at Surrey’s Strawberry Hill Elementary to physically distance during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo: Lauren Collins)
Five Surrey schools reporting COVID-19 exposures

INTERACTIVE TABLE: Search for schools, organize by exposure dates

The peninsula’s Community Christmas Day Dinner at White Rock Baptist Church – seen here in 2019 – has been cancelled for 2020, because of pandemic-inspired limitations on gatherings. (File photo)
Annual Community Christmas dinner ‘just not possible’ this year

Organizers vow that 40 years-plus Semiahmoo Peninsula tradition will return, post-COVID

Sooke’s Paul Larouche enjoys gold panning along the Sooke River, looking for small treasures. (Aaron Guillen/News Staff)
VIDEO: Island man finds niche audience by gold-panning on YouTube

Paul Larouche, 29, with over 215,000 subscribers, opens up about his journey

Photo courtesy of Correctional Service of Canada.
Prisoner convicted of first-degree murder escapes Mission Insitution

When 10 p.m. count was conducted, staff discovered Roderick Muchikekwanape had disappeared

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry speaks Thursday (Oct. 29) during a news conference held at Fraser Health office, in video posted to Facebook. (Photo: Government of British Columbai/Facebook)
COVID-19 ‘disproportionately’ affecting Fraser Health: Henry

Health region has about 75 per cent of B.C.’s active cases

A study by SlotsOnlineCanada notes there is at least 88 hours of top-rated horror movies for Canadians to consume this Halloween. (Unsplash)
Spooks and Chill study reveals Canada’s favourite horror flicks

88 hours of top-rated horror movies can fill COVID-19 Halloween

Burnaby RCMP responded to a dine-and-dash suspect who fell through a ceiling in March 2020. (RCMP handout)
VIDEO: Suspected dine-and-dasher falls through ceiling of Burnaby restaurant

A woman believed to be dashing on her restaurant bill fell through the kitchen ceiling

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

A can of Canada Dry Ginger Ale is shown in Toronto on Thursday Oct. 29, 2020. The maker of Canada Dry Ginger Ale has agreed to pay over $200,000 to settle a class-action lawsuit launched by a B.C. man who alleged he was misled by marketing suggesting the soda had medicinal benefits. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Joseph O’Connal
B.C. man’s lawsuit over marketing of Canada Dry ginger ale settled for $200K

Soda’s maker, Canada Dry Mott’s Inc., denied the allegations and any liability

Vancouver Island-based Wilson’s Transportation has expanded to fill some of the routes left unserviced by Greyhound as of Nov. 1, 2018. (Black Press files)
B.C. bus companies say they need help to survive COVID-19

Like airlines, motor coaches have lost most of their revenue

A deer was spotted in October 2020 in Prince Rupert, B.C., with a bright pink yoga ball stuck in its antlers. (Kayla Vickers/Chronicles Of Hammy The Deer Official Page)
Hammy 2.0? Prince Rupert deer spotted with bright pink yoga ball stuck in antlers

The BC Conservation Officer Service is aware of the deer roaming around the city

Most Read