Amid pandemic, Tom and Ellie Hamby still ‘making spirits bright’ as Santa and Mrs. Claus don face masks, social distance. Look for them at Tuesday’s parade (map, latest updates).

Amid pandemic, Tom and Ellie Hamby still ‘making spirits bright’ as Santa and Mrs. Claus don face masks, social distance. Look for them at Tuesday’s parade (map, latest updates).

A masked Santa and Mrs. Claus ride around Downtown Rome in a golf cart during the recent Holiday Open House on Nov. 14. Facebook photo.

By Natalie Simms

Since first donning their red suits in 2003, Tom and Ellie Hamby, better known as Santa and Mrs. Claus, haven’t experienced a Christmas season quite like this year. Given the COVID pandemic, a lot has changed in how the community is celebrating this holiday season but the Hambys are doing their best to bring a hearty ‘Ho, Ho, Ho’ where and when they can.

“Everything has changed a lot,” says Ellie. “Nothing it like it usually is. We are not doing a lot of events. But Santa and I are doing OK. We have had to do a COVID test out of precaution and it was negative.”

The couple celebrated their 61st wedding anniversary in September. In a typical year, the Hambys work 17 to 18 spots, including corporate events, private homes, church functions, schools and Rome Downtown Development gatherings. “We have not had a lot of people solicit business this year. We have only had two events so far and only have five more scheduled this year,” she says.

Their first was participating in the Rome Downtown Open House on Saturday, Nov. 14. Typically, Santa and Mrs. Claus can be found around town in the Trolley and available for photos with children. But this year, the couple wore their face masks and drove up and down Broad Street on a golf cart waving to visitors with no one-on-one interactions.

“We have a number of new rules this year including no sitting on laps,” says Ellie. “And we all wear face masks. At any event with children, they can either stand by us or sit in a chair by us but not too close.

“We just did an event at West End Elementary School including photos with the students. They all wore masks and we had our masks. No siblings or other family members were allowed. But it was still a fun event for the children.”

Santa and Mrs. Claus will be at the Rome Christmas Parade on Tuesday on their sleigh to usher the Christmas season into Rome (6-8 p.m., State Mutual Stadium). “We will be on a static display, a good distance apart from other floats. It is good that we can still have a drive-through event so there won’t be any crowds,” she says.

Although their event schedule is less this year,  the Hambys say they haven’t been impacted by the reduced income.

“We didn’t get into this to make money,” says Tom. “We use the income to help us with extra things that we normally can’t afford to do like vacation or extra items for our home. Last year, we had earmarked the money for a cruise in January but it is canceled. We do a lot of events for free for the kids and offered reduced rates for schools and nursing homes. We just want to get enough money to cover the costs of our suits and cleaning.”

The Hambys are hopeful things may return to a more ‘normal’ routine next year.

“We really can’t predict what it will be like next year. If the vaccines are effective and we continue to wear masks…maybe it will be normal but it may not ever get back to normal,” says Ellie.  “We are doing all we can to stay as safe as we can.”

Click here to read our 2019 feature on how the Hambys became the Claus family.

More on the upcoming Christmas parades:

Tuesday: The 2020 Rome Christmas Parade is on from 6-8 p.m. The parade will be staged in the parking lot of State Mutual Stadium and the public is invited to drive through and see all the floats, lights and holiday cheer. Rome Police will be directing traffic through the route. This year’s theme is “Heroes of 2020” and will honor the healthcare workers, first responders, teachers and all of those who have been on the front lines of  this pandemic to keep our families and community safe.  Mike McDougald will serve as Grand Marshal.

  • Parade entries may set up in the area from 1-6 p.m. on the day of the parade.
  • For more on the parade, click here.

Thursday: Cartersville Exchange Club Christmas Parade is Thursday, Dec. 3. For those interested in participating, we encourage them to visit our website, Cartersville Exchange Club, to complete our online registration form. In order to comply with city and state recommendations, we ask that all participants and spectators practice social distancing and that face masks be worn.”  The parade begins at 6 p.m.; lineup begins at 4 p.m. at Tabernacle Church.  The rain date: Dec. 10, at 6 p.m.

Saturday: Lindale Christmas Parade, 3 p.m. Star lighting ceremony begins at 5:30 p.m.

Saturday: Summerville parade: WZQZ 99.1 FM and 1180 AM reports that Summerville also will use a “reverse-parade” concept where “floats” will be set up along East and West Washington streets and observers will drive by in their vehicles to view the “parade.” It will be held Saturday, Dec. 5, from 6-8 p.m.

Parades canceled this year:

  • Calhoun
  • Cedartown
  • Rockmart


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