Lessons in the art of being Santa Claus will be the focus this weekend through the International University of Santa Claus at the Hyatt Place in Dublin.

Lessons in the art of being Santa Claus will be the focus this weekend through the International University of Santa Claus at the Hyatt Place in Dublin.

Johnstown resident Doug Baird, who sports a red suit each holiday season, will attend the May 3-4 workshop with the goal of becoming a better Santa.

"No matter what you are doing or even how long you have been doing it, you can always learn something new," he said. "I am attending this school to hear a different perspective on how to be a better Santa."

Baird is a 2005 graduate of the Charles W. Howard Santa School, one of the oldest of its kind. He said what's most important is what a Santa will take from the workshop.

"We can always learn how to do things better," he added. "Another factor I am looking for is the fellowship with the other Santas."

Baird is looking forward to hearing how one Santa may handle a situation differently from another. For example, he said, kids today aren't familiar with coal.

"Oh, they may learn about it in school, but when Santa started to gain popularity in the '40s and '50s, coal was a major source of heat in the homes," he said. "Today if you tell a child that if they are bad, they will receive coal, they ask what coal is. So how do you approach this situation? What do other Santas tell children they will receive when they are bad?"

Obetz resident Wayne Evans, who has worked as a Santa for eight years, said he always stays positive with the kids.

"I tell them to be sure they're good," he said.

Like Baird, Evans said he's attending the workshop to learn something new.

"Any time you go to a workshop, no matter how long you've been in something, you learn something," he said. "Each session there will probably be something brought up that you can use."

Often, Evans said, "street smarts can get you further than book smarts."

"I keep my ears open and have an open mind," he added. "Sometimes you can learn from the kids."

Among the sessions will be "The History of Santa Claus" to learn how he evolved from stories, legends and cultures.

Another topic is "The Basics of Being Santa," including the do's and don'ts of sitting in the chair, working with pets, special needs children and adults.

The workshop also covers the "Secrets of How Santa Knows All," the most current and popular toys and answering those who don't believe in Santa or Christmas.

Sessions will also include a "checklist" for Santa to be organized and prepared for work as well as "What Qualities do Great Santas Possess - A Santa of Character."

Material for the International University of Santa Claus has evolved from the experiences of many Santas and has been compiled by Santa Tim Connaghan, who's also the author of "Behind the Red Suit -- The Business of Santa."

In addition to providing tips on being a good Santa, participants will walk away from the school with a diploma, a bachelor of Santa Claus.

Graduates of the school are automatic members of The Red Suit Society that was started in 2003 as an alumni association for the International University of Santa Claus. The association was established to be a brotherhood of individuals that have invested their own time to improve or enhance their representation of Santa Claus, Saint Nicholas or other holiday personalities.

More information about the school can be found online at www.school4santas.com.