BRONZEVILLE — Chicago’s favorite Black Santa will be back to welcome the holiday season at this year’s tree lighting ceremony Downtown.
Dreezy Claus and sidekick Sister Claus are among the special guests invited to join the annual event 5 p.m. Friday at Millennium Park, 201 E. Randolph St. The fun starts with a preshow featuring Cabaret ZaZou. The tree lighting is at 6:30 p.m.
“It’s an honor. I’m so proud. Last year was such an amazing experience that I had to take it all in. … Just being there and looking at the crowd? It was like a dream,” said Claus, who goes by Andre Russell.
Claus has been hard at work bringing joy to residents all over the city, making appearances at public and private events. With the holiday season underway, he said he expects to be busy well into next year.
“My weekends are 90 percent booked at this point. One of the events I have coming up, the person organizing it met me at the tree-lighting ceremony and told me he wanted to throw something just so I could come through. You just don’t realize how much an effect you have on other people,” said Claus, who released a book last year.
Claus said he’s looking forward handing out gifts to boys and girls on the South and West sides during Mothers Against Senseless Killings’ Christmas Day caravan in December, an event he’s participated in since its inception four years ago.
He also hopes to return to Chance The Rapper’s Night at the Museum holiday event at the Museum of Science and Industry, if it returns in person this year. Claus said his inaugural appearance there led to the invitation from the city to join the tree-lighting ceremony.
When people recognize Claus on the street — even out of his North Pole gear — he’s grateful. The boost in visibility has also given him the idea to start a school to train other Black Santas, he said.
“It wouldn’t be an extension of Dreezy Claus; I’d just teach them how to represent as Santa, for themselves and the culture. Whoever wants to get into the Santa business could learn how to do it right and reputably,” he said.
The city’s Christmas tree this year is a 55-foot Colorado blue spruce, donated by the Glisovic family of suburban Morton Grove.
The event will include stars of the Broadway show “Wicked,” Son Monarcas, Jumaane Taylor and Chicago Human Rhythm Project’s Stone Soup Rhythms, and electric violinist and DJ Adia. There also will be a fireworks show, according to the event page.
Fans of Dreezy Claus will have another opportunity to see him Dec. 4 at the sixth Christmas on 55th Street.
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