Who says Santa isn’t real?
Definitely not Julie Parrott. She’s a true believer.
"Well, of course, I believe in Santa," Parrott said in her thick Midwestern accent. "He lives right here in my heart."
Not only does the big guy live in her heart, but according to Parrott, he has lived in her home since she was a little girl.
"My grandmother used to decorate everything in her house, even her bathroom," she said. "And my mother did somewhat of the same."
Keeping with her family’s Christmas traditions, Parrott has adorned almost every room in her house with Santa décor, her Christmas tree has more than 6,000 lights, and she began baking Christmas cookies almost a month before Old St. Nick climbs down chimneys around the world.
"She really gets into it," said Parrott’s husband, Willie, as she paraded around their Hinesville home, showing off her oldest Christmas ornament (which happens to be 110 years old). "I get a kick out of seeing her do it."
While her Santa-laden home, naturally white hair, rosy cheeks and charm might clue one into how much the former telephone sales operator believes in the jolly red fella, her red dress, with furry white trim and lacy red bonnet, is a dead giveaway.
"Being Mrs. Claus," she said, "is just natural for me"
Parrott has been dressing up as Santa’s old lady for the past six years, spreading what she calls the "Christmas spirit" at holiday parties and functions all over Liberty County.
Although adults don’t always believe her getup, Parrott said her disguise has kept most young children’s eyes glued to her like the bells on Santa’s sleigh.
"I love to leave an impression on their little minds," she said. "When I started this, I did not want to just make a costume. I wanted it to be believable."
Still, she said, a few children have questioned her disguise.
"I remember the time I went dressed up to my grandson’s school," she said. "There was a group of boys walking down the hall. Two of the boys were taunting, saying, ‘Santa isn’t real’. But one boy kept looking. So after they left, that little boy came all the way back and said, ‘I might be hedging my bets, but could you please tell Santa I have been good this year.
"That makes it worth to me."
How it all began
Parrott said you could call it a "natural culmination of coming out."
"I was working for Liberty Propane at the time, and the company was going to participate in the Hinesville Christmas Parade. Hank Stacy, the company’s owner, wanted to have a real propane fireplace on the float. So I said, ‘Why don’t I dress up as Mrs. Claus and sit by the fire?’"
She then dug out one of her all time favorite movies – "White Christmas" – and her sewing kit.
"I wanted to imitate Rosemary Clooney’s red dress in the movie, and I wanted it to be fluid," she said. "My grandfather always said, ‘If you are going to go on the merry-go-round, make sure you reach for the brass rings.’"
Parrott said her brass rings became red lace and muslin, carefully pieced together, making her into the woman in red.
"I remember when I first put on the dress," she said, "I thought, this is me."
Stacy also remembers Parrott’s design. He said it was a huge hit at the parade.
"She fit the ticket," he said. "She was made for the position."