Meet the wild and wonderful Santas of Colorado and beyond

Denver photographer Ron Cooper’s new book, “We Are Santa: Portaits and Profiles,” is getting a socially distanced gallery show Nov. 23. Pictured: Santa KJ Braithwaite of Colorado Springs. (Provided by Ron Cooper)

Missing the man in the big red suit this year? So is every mall that cashes in on portraits with him.

But there are still ways to get a hefty dose of Santa Claus, however virtually. To mark the release of the new book “We Are Santa: Portraits and Profiles,” by Denver photographer Ron Cooper, Gallery MFC is hosting a socially-distanced show starting Monday, Nov. 23.

The gallery, at 424 S. Broadway (as part of Metropolitan Frame Company), will be operating at reduced capacity under newly announced Level Red restrictions that take effect on Friday, Nov. 20.

“To enforce social distancing, the gallery will limit total attendance to 15 persons at any one time,” said a spokesman for the event, who added that Gallery MCF is usually below capacity.

“We Are Santa,” which grew out of author and photographer Cooper’s Santa Project, includes portraits and short stories of people who portray Santa Claus in various guises around the U.S. — including Colorado residents such as “Santa Garth” (Garth Scovill) of Parker, and Black Santas such as Santa Mike (Michael Darby of Atlanta).

“Before and after portraits, behind-the-scenes stories of custom-made costumes and specialized training, and surprising anecdotes of on-the-job encounters bring these Santas to life,” wrote publisher Princeton Architectural Press of the 156-page book, which was published on Sept. 29.

Cooper is also running a contest offering a virtual visit with a professional Santa from the book. People can share a photo on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook of themselves with a Santa (from any time in their lives), tag @pappress, use the hashtag #WeAreSanta and include a promotional message to win screen time for up to 20 people with a veteran Santa.

Entries are being accepted at through Nov. 30 for the December 1-10 “visits.”

All proceeds from the sale of the book — Cooper’s first — will be donated to Children’s Hospital Colorado, the author and photographer said on his website.

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