Gary Barnes — better known to most in Michiana as “Santa Gary” — has been portraying Santa Claus in Michigan for 39 years.
When not entertaining gift requests from young children throughtout the region, “Santa” studied business management at Southwestern Michigan College and is a graduate of Camelot Parochial High School in Chicago. He is a former machinist at Whirlpool and a former firefighter with the United States Air Force.
Santa Gary is coming to town many times throughout the Christmas season, including at the Niles District Library, the Niles Amtrak Depot, Martin’s Supermarkets, and several other locations. Follow Santa Gary’s adventures on Facebook at

What do you think makes Michiana unique in comparison to the North Pole? Michiana has four seasons, while the North Pole has just one season.

What is your favorite place to visit during the holidays? That is a hard question to answer because Michiana is a great place all on its own, but I do like visiting the Niles District Library and also the Niles Train Depot when the Christmas lights are turned on.

Do you think living in Michiana has changed you in any way? How has it changed me? Well, let’s see. I would say that the people of Michiana would be the ones who have changed me, not just Michiana. You see, the people in the area are what makes people change, and as for me, it’s the way everyone treats each other when they are out and about.
I always get a smile, or even a “Hi Santa.” It just makes you want to smile and have a great day, even if you started out not having one. Always have a positive attitude with you and it will show and others will see it and then they will have a great day.

What is your favorite time of year? Christmas, of course!

Photography by Amanda Seabolt Photography