It all started in December of 1966 in Havana, Illinois, when a four-year-old Phillip Wenz asked his mother to help him make a Santa Claus outfit. Together they formed the suit by taking an old red flannel shirt of his father’s as a coat, a pair of red pajamas for the pants, and some black goulashes for the boots. A white handkerchief, safety pinned to a Santa hat, would serve as whiskers. A “Ho, Ho, Ho” and Phillip was off to play.
Later that day, Phillip used a pillow case as a toy sack and filled it with candy canes from the family Christmas Tree. Sneaking out of the house and crossing the street, he approached the home of a family friend. To their surprise he entered the house unannounced and started passing out the candy canes. Even though they were happy to have a visit from Santa, they immediately phoned his mother.
The four-year-old made numerous visits that Christmas to family and friends. His father, the administrator of a local hospital, allowed him to visit and pass out greetings to patients. A tradition that continued for 22 years until his father retired in 1988.
In 1968 his father took over a new hospital in Watseka, Illinois. Phillip entered school that year and started a string of classroom parties that stretched to his high school graduation in 1981. Even by the fifth grade he was asked to do preschools and area nursing homes.
His reputation as Santa grew by the time he entered high school in 1977. The local chamber of commerce asked if he would be interested in doing their Santa House promotion in downtown Watseka. Phillip said yes. At the age of fourteen he was in his first parade and worked in Santa’s House after school. Phillip worked for the Watseka Area Chamber of Commerce from 1977 through 1984. For eight years he appeared in the annual parade and visited with children in Santa’s House.
Shortly after leaving college in 1985, Phillip was hired by Instant Photo Corporation of America in Deerfield, Illinois. His job was to train Santas and set up holiday promotions in the Chicago area. One of Instant Photo’s accounts in 1986 was Santa’s Village theme park in Dundee, Illinois. This was the start of his year-round Santa career. In addition to the park, he began working major department stores, corporate events, and shopping malls. This added valuable experience to his character development. By 1989 he was well-known in the Chicago market and took the contract, with his own company, for Santa's Village as their resident year-round Santa.
Phillip went on to a career that includes nationally recognized Christmas events, parades, and appearances in some of the nation's largest cities.