Here comes Santa Claus

Ryan M. Melton and Anne Tripicchios

Santa is in the air, on the floor and all around at one Ames home.

For more than 40 years, members of the Budd family have been working on their collection of Santas.

They have Santa rugs, wind chimes, light bulbs and even Santa toilet paper in their home at 907 Burnett Ave.

For the last four years, Harry and Barb Budd have turned their home into The Santa House, an exhibit containing more than 4,000 Santa figurines and other Christmas-related ornaments, statues and games. The Budds’ goal is to help children who have been abused, as well as children who are struggling with mental health problems.

All proceeds are donated to the Beloit Residential Treatment Center, 1323 Northwestern Ave., a 24-hour psychiatric medical institution for children.

“We’ve always decorated for Christmas, and instead of angels or snowmen, we chose Santas,” Barb said. “Harry and I have known each other for well more than fifty years, and his family was always a fan of Christmas. From then to now, the Santas have added up,”

The Budds have so many Santas that their collection never gets completely put away. Storage for 4,000 Santas is no small space. During the off-season, they use their three car garage and attic to store the treasures, but once September rolls around, it’s time to break them out and do it all over again.

“We start setting up for The Santa House on Sept. 1, and we put in a lot of eight hour days,” Barb said. “In the days prior to the opening, I’ve put in many 12- to 15-hour days.”

She said 15 years ago, Harry Budd’s aunt saw the house full of decorations and began spreading the word about its beauty. Soon after, the Budds began opening up their home during Christmas time to their friends and family for free. Four years ago, they began to use their collection to benefit the children of Beloit.

“A man from the Children’s Miracle Network came and saw the house, and pushed us to do more,” Barb said. “When we retired, we opened it up more, and he encouraged us to open it up to an organization.”

A neighbor was involved with the Ames Jaycees and was interested in helping the Budds use their collection to benefit charity, Barb Budd said.

The Budds’ only condition was all money made from what would become The Santa House would go completely to a children’s organization in the community. From that point, the Jaycees decided to help Beloit.

Barb said on average, 300 paying adults and 150 children have come to see The Santa House annually. Over three years, the exhibit has contributed more than $3,300 in donations to Beloit.

In the Budds’ two-story home, every square inch is decorated, including bathrooms, bedrooms, hallways and the kitchen. When decorated, it’s barely livable, Barb said. During the exhibit they are unable to entertain or prepare meals for visitors due to the abundance of Santas, she said. The Budds even have an entire room filled specifically with Coca-Cola Santas.

All of the children of Beloit are allowed an off-campus visit to The Santa House every year. Barb Budd said each week they invite several children to their home to view the Santas and enjoy treats.

This year, the Budds’ goal is to raise $2,000, but visitors have been coming in slower than usual.

“We’ve had requests to open it up Thanksgiving weekend, and maybe that was a mistake,” Barb Budd said. “This is the first year we’ve opened for Thanksgiving, and we’ve had so few people come.”

Even though Barb is concerned about the decreasing number of visitors to the Santa House, she said all the hard work is still worthwhile.

“I enjoy it, and I’d hate to pull it away from the supporters and the young kids who have been here every year,” she said. “Money we can get from somewhere else, but the joy and the smiles on the visitor’s faces would be the hardest things to give up.”