Couple play host to Santa
Some might say that Santa lives in no-man's land.
Mike and Eileen Porter, owners of the house where Santa stays from Thanksgiving to New Year's, say their home has a Lansing phone number, a Leavenworth address, is in the Tonganoxie school district and gets electricity from Jefferson County.
And at this time of year, electricity is no small matter.
Holiday passers-by are hit with the sight of more than 25,000 outdoor lights in all shapes, colors and formations. That's just a start. The Porters' property also features a larger-than-life poinsettia that glows in the dark, a merry-go-round that really works and a 20-some-foot-wide banner of blue lights that reads "Peace on Earth."
The exterior of the rural home 11 miles northeast of Tonganoxie is so well-lit that it might be safe to say that Santa's reindeer could find it even if they were blindfolded.
But above all, this is the home where, for the past five years, Santa has greeted visitors with a jolly "Ho, ho, ho, and a Merry Christmas to you."
Santa remembers most of the guests by name ("Santa knows everyone," according to Porter) and gives candy canes to all the children. Last year he handed out more than 4,000 candy canes.
Mike Porter said Santa is frequently around from 6 p.m. until 10:30 p.m. on weekdays, and from 6 p.m. until 11:30 p.m. on weekends. But, he said, there are times when Santa is busy doing other things.
"Santa's here a lot," Porter said. "But you never really know because he pops in and out. That's just the way Santa Claus is."
One might wonder how the Porters came to be such close friends with a man such as Santa.
It all began 31 years ago when Mike and Eileen were married, she said.
"Ever since I can remember, even when we didn't have any money, we had a real Christmas tree," Eileen Porter said.
Eventually, outdoor lighting became Mike Porter's hobby, his wife said.
Then she laughed and said, "But I really don't know how it got out of control."
Things have gotten a little excessive, even for Santa. Mr. Claus works on the lights year-round (when he's not making toys) and begins putting them out in September.
Visitors from across the country have seen the lights at the Porters' house, Eileen Porter said. The worst part about the commotion is that even in the midst of "no-man's land," neighbors sometimes don't appreciate the traffic and cars turning around in their driveways, Eileen Porter said.
But the reward of having Santa come to call is seeing the children's faces, she said.
"And it's seeing people that we haven't seen all year and enjoying what Christmas is all about," she said.
"It brings out the little kid in you."