Bloomington-Normal honors Merlin Kennedy with Santa-themed weekend

Local News

BLOOMINGTON-NORMAL, Ill. — The Twin Cities NAACP branch is dedicating the weekend to remembering the town’s original “Black Santa.”

The agency, along with Normal’s Uptown Partner’s are celebrating the first “Mr. Merlin Kennedy Weekend” at Santa’s Station in Uptown.

Representatives from Normal’s NAACP branch said Mr. Kennedy, who passed away in late October, is remembered for walking the entire route of the 1966 Twin Cities Christmas parade dressed as the community’s first African American Santa Claus, despite the threat of being arrested.

The weekend includes live music, face painting, and a meeting with Mr. and Mrs. Claus.

Jerry James, who is a member of the NAACP, portrayed Santa Claus Saturday. Jones said he believes children look at Santa and see love rather than color.

“In the same tradition that Merlin Kennedy did in the 1960s so we were just trying to exactly the same thing,” James said. “Trying to make children have a different experience about Christmas so that they understood that Christmas really is about a feeling.”

The last day for Mr. Merlin Kennedy Weekend is Sunday from 12 pm to 3 pm.

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