Dad Mike MacKinnon of Brockton looks down at 10-month-old Rori as mom, Alexandra MacKinnon looks on during the attempt to set a record for most people wearing Santa hats on Nov. 23. (Tim Correira/The Enterprise)

RED HAT SOCIETY: 507 Santa hat-clad people turn out for tribute to first department store Santa

The plaque

By Maria Papadopoulos, Enterprise staff writer
Published on Nov. 24, 2008

   BROCKTON — Hoping to be a part of a new category in the Guinness Book of World Records, Jack Duffy-Protentis wore a red Santa hat downtown Sunday.
   “I want to get in,” Duffy-Protentis, 10, of Easton, said of the renowned world record-keeping organization.
   He wasn’t alone.
   One by one, a total of 507 local residents checked in to get their red Santa hat at Main and Crescent streets Sunday afternoon, event organizer John Merian said.
   Merian wants to catalog the event as “the most people together wearing Santa hats at the commemoration of the first Department Store Santa plaque” in the Guinness Book of World Records.
   Together, while singing Christmas songs, hundreds of “Santas” paid tribute to James Edgar, the man who brought Santa Claus to town.
   Surrounded by a sea of red Santa hats, Merian led the ceremony to dedicate a plaque to the memory of Edgar, widely recognized as the first department store Santa in the country.
   Merian shouted to the crowd: “Did anybody ever know who the first department store Santa was, before this event?”

Marion Bentz of Seekonk wears a Santa hat complete with pigtails as she joins a crowd wearing Santa hats on Main Street in Brockton on Nov. 23.

   “James Edgar!” several people shouted back.
   “It’s kind of awesome,” Max Russo, 10, of Easton, said of Edgar’s distinction, after running down the sidewalk with his friends singing “Jingle Bells.”
   Entire families wore Santa hats, including Kim Cottingham, 38, her husband, Rowan Olmstead, 37, and their four daughters: Ciaran, 7; Ailash, 5; Riona, 3; and Anya, 2, all of Brockton.
   “It’s nice to see something that (our children) can come back to, and show their kids,” Olmstead said of the plaque commemorating Edgar. “They can say that they were here.”
   Cottingham said Sunday’s turnout made her proud to live in Brockton.
   “They’re really trying to revitalize downtown, and I think it’s great to have people come down, especially for something so historic,” she said.
   Merian said he has submitted an application to the Guinness Book of World Records, and the application process takes about 4 to 6 weeks.
   If his application is rejected, Merian said he’ll reapply. But if it is accepted, “we’ll try and break (the record for the most Santa hats at the downtown plaque) next year,” he said.
   “One way or the other, this is not the last they’ve heard of us,” Merian said of the Guinness Book of World Records.
   The event also marked the first stop on the city’s “15 rounds of history,” a trail marking notable sites in the downtown area, said Merian, who also serves as president of the Downtown Brockton Association.
   In 1890, Edgar donned a custom-made red suit, bringing to life the Thomas Nast drawing of Santa Claus.
   Edgar, owner of a Main Street dry goods store, had worn many costumes throughout the years to delight the children he loved and entertained at annual outings and in his shop.
   A bronze plaque, measuring 2-by-3 feet, now sits on the Main Street parking garage, the site of Edgar’s first store.
   Merian’s next step is to gather thousands of memories of Brocktonians who shopped at Edgar’s store.
   People can visit, and click on “Memories” to send photographs or written recollections to Merian.