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Mrs. Santa's Secret: Looking for the positive in people

Suzi McKee • Dec 16, 2018 at 4:30 PM

Growing up on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, Judy Farlow aka “Butterfly the Clown” impressed her family and friends with her creative imagination, her vivacious personality and her determination to make everyone feel good about themselves. Little did they know that these traits would one day lead her to the White House to entertain a host of children and their parents.

As a member of the Jonesborough Storytellers community, Judy regularly weaves her messages into interesting tales of joy and happiness right here in the Tri-Cities and beyond.

Chosen as one of 12 from 127 people who auditioned, Judy worked as Butterfly the Clown in Underground Atlanta and as a costume and makeup artist for all the clowns in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Judy began to hone her skills at delivering a positive comment or message to every child that came into her sphere of influence.

“I think it’s important to share with children good ideas that they can believe about themselves,” she began with a smile. “Many adults are not careful with the words that they use with their children. If a child makes 10 positive efforts and has one negative outcome, many parents focus on the negative which is the wrong approach to take in my opinion. Just because someone makes a bad choice does not make them a bad person and children are very sensitive to words offered by adults.”

In fact, Judy has spent her life working on positive messages for many different types of adults. She once served as a DUI instructor and substance abuse counselor. “I never met a person addicted to drugs who liked themselves,” she explained. Her DUI classes were only three or four days long, so she had to hustle to get the students to accept her and to get past their hostility so that she could make a positive impact on their lives. “It was very difficult,” she began, “the law said they had to attend, they had a challenging attitude, but I would share things with them that hopefully made a difference to them.”

While living in Fredericksburg, Virginia, Judy worked as Mrs. Claus with a Santa who was also a Secret Service Agent serving in the White House. Jim Shay, also known as the “pistol totin’ Santa,” was impressed with Judy’s work ethic, her ability to relate well with the children, and the laughter that she brought to everyone around her.

“Jim asked me one day if I’d like to go with him to play Mrs. Santa at the White House and I was very honored and quite excited,” she shared. After an extensive background check and vetting by the FBI, Mrs. Claus and Santa arrived in the Blue Room the first year to entertain the children of visiting delegates. The second year, they were the featured attraction at the White House Press Christmas Party.

“I didn’t watch the news very much, so I didn’t know who any of them were, which worked in my favor. I could be impartial to each child,” Judy said.

The First Lady and her staff came by to see if things were going well and if Santa and Mrs. Claus had everything they needed. “The Clintons were very gracious to us,” Judy continued.

Mrs. Santa and her husband, Tim Ruckman, aka Bo the Magic Man, will be entertaining children and adults on Saturday, Dec. 22, at 5 p.m. at the Renaissance Center Theatre in Kingsport with a show entitled “Mrs. Santa’s Secret.” There will be storytelling, puppets, magic and music for children of all ages to enjoy. The event is free - people only need a free ticket to get in - because Mrs. Santa and Bo have a desire to give back to their community, especially for families who might not be able to afford holiday fun. Tickets may be obtained at local businesses or by calling (423) 943-9846.

And what is Mrs. Santa’s message to the Kingsport community for Christmas? “During the Christmas season, follow your heart. Take the time to find ways to spread love. You can find many different ways when your mind is open to it.”

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