Memories of Bedford Santa Inspire an Independent Claus

December 20, 2023
Cliff Moore, BHS Class of 1980, has spent the past few years crafting an 1,800-pound sleigh, worthy of delivering gifts around the world. Staff Photo Mike Rosenberg

Cliff Moore knows he isn’t literally Santa Claus. But he sure looks and sounds like him, and that’s the important thing because the venerable symbol is an inspiration, says the 1980 Bedford High School graduate. 

Moore grew up in this town, and he said the seed for his embodying Santa Claus was planted when he was a child and Bedford Santa stopped at his home on a few Christmas Eves.

“Santa Claus is an icon for good, and it doesn’t matter what background you’re from,” he asserted on Friday, as he prepared to don costuming for an appearance at an open house outside the Davis Road home of Suzanne and Ryan Koller.

Moore has the laugh. The build. The swagger. And the custom-built sleigh – an 1,800-pound original that he said “has taken on a life of its own.

“People feed off the vibe. It’s really magical.” Many people have portrayed Santa Claus, Moore said, and “I don’t know if they realize how much of an impact they have.”

Moore, a Lawrence resident who works independently delivering furniture, related that about 10 years ago, “I became a professional Santa Claus. I’ve done very well, and I enjoy it.”

After a few years, he envisioned building a life-size sleigh as “a cool addition to my repertoire.” He did some research, but it was just pretty much a concept until the Covid-19 pandemic changed everyone’s lives beginning in March 2020.

Moore visited a friend in Alabama, who happened to have a supply of red cedar. “It’s now or never,” he decided, and welded the frame while down South and drove the project back to New England. He found a woodshop in a Lowell maker space, where he milled the cedar. 

Near the end of 2022, after hundreds of hours of adding accessories, the sleigh was ready, and he started entering parades last March. The sleigh is not self-propelled; it is rigged for towing.

Overall, the project, Moore said, has been “a lesson in resourcefulness and perseverance.”

Santa tests out the sleigh built by Cliff Moore. Staff photo by Wayne Braverman

Midday on Friday was almost springlike as Moore, parked on Hillside Road while he prepped the sleigh for its appearance across the street, demonstrated some special features he installed:

  • A snow-making machine. Moore held the outlet of a tube aloft as the synthetic flakes drifted onto the pavement. He said the settings go all the way to “blizzard,” and the tank has enough fluid to let it snow for 90 minutes.
  • A fog machine that he said can “obliterate all of Gillette Stadium.” 
  • “A portable professional sound stage,” with world-class audio. 

During development, Moore said, he was contemplating “how do I make this year-round?” He made a lot of the accessories and decorations interchangeable so he can swap them out for different occasions, such as Halloween and St. Patrick’s Day.

Moore stressed that he should not be considered a “mall Santa,” part of some holiday décor. “I am more proactive,” he explained.

He not only makes guest appearances at tree-lightings and other public events, but also at corporate parties and private homes such as the Kollers’.

“I even had to do a singing telegram, which was really scary,” Moore said, primarily because he was asked to write the words.

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