Salisbury’s Santa On-Duty
Every December, Salisbury hosts Santa’s Workshop. The city builds a tent, hands out hot chocolate and treats, and kids line up. Santa and Mrs. Claus are delivered in a firetruck. When they round the corner, the lights and sirens come on. And it’s just a madhouse.
When Santa comes down off the truck, it’s supposed to be a long and leisurely walk, so old Saint Nick can make an entrance. But Santa looks and sees that hundreds of people are crammed into the neighborhood at Light and Newton Streets, all waiting to meet him.
It becomes a challenge to push through the holiday horde, even when Santa is a six-foot-three, 300-pound policeman everyone knows simply as Bull.
“All the kids, they just storm you. They literally can’t wait to see Santa. A lot of the young kids don’t know there’s a police officer under there,” said the man in the Santa suit, City of Salisbury Master Police Officer Aaron Hudson.
Bull is a 27-year Salisbury Police veteran and Delmar native whose current beat is patrolling Salisbury’s Downtown Plaza on a bicycle. He started his police career as a cadet at age 19 and quickly earned his nickname when he reminded a supervisor of the tall, baldheaded bailiff from TV’s Night Court. It stuck.
“A lot of people are like, ‘Man, you a big Santa,’” he said with a laugh. “Just tall. Big, broad shoulders. Strong-looking Santa. But a lot of gigs I do, I’m sitting down, so you can’t tell how tall I am.”
For the city of Salisbury, performing as Santa Claus is a uniquely municipal operation, starring Bull. His ride is often a city firetruck, like the one from Santa’s Workshop. The city literally owns the Santa suit, right down to the beard. And it’s not uncommon for Bull to actually be on-duty while playing Santa.
“If I’m working, it’s, ‘Hey, can you throw the Santa suit on? Just hit up a complex real quick for a couple hours?’ I keep the suit in the back of my car or hanging by the locker. Someone helps me pull the pants up, and I’m out. I’m in. Let’s go. Throw me in the Kubota. We just go into a couple neighborhoods, and we do our thing.”
Talk about going undercover. As Santa, Bull visits different apartments and neighborhoods throughout the yuletide season, usually in underprivileged areas, and hands out donated toys to kids. Even younger teenagers, the tough guys, they give Santa a grudging respect, even though they know it’s a ruse, Bull said.
His most memorable moment came during the 2017 holidays, when, like countless other kids before him, Bull simply asked the little boy in his lap what he wanted for Christmas.
“He said, ‘I want… I want… I want to get down!’ And he got down and threw up everywhere,” Bull said. “He was so nervous. The raw emotion from a 4- or 5-year-old who’s probably seeing Santa for the first time is real. Some of them can’t help themselves; they get so nervous when Santa’s there.”
For the last five years, Bull has been the closing act of Salisbury’s Christmas parade. First, he waits patiently in a parking lot on his float for two or three hours. Then, finally, his firetruck makes the turn onto Civic Avenue and Mount Hermon Road. Santa emerges, and he brings down the house.
“Man, it’ll bring tears to your eyes,” Bull said. “The kids are like, ‘SAN-TA! SAN-TA!’ It’s that raw-emotion thing. They’ve waited hours with thousands of people, and then it’s ‘Here I come, the last one.’ And nobody knows it’s me doing it; they have no idea it’s your neighborhood cop. I don’t advertise it; I just do it.”
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