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Long-running St. Paul Santa donates suit to Minnesota Historical Society

Leo Treadway hung up his suit in 2017.
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He brought joy and cheer to Twin Cities children for 30 years, and Leo Treadway's efforts have earned him a place in the Minnesota Historical Society's collection.

The longtime St. Paul resident hung up his Santa suit and hat in 2017, having played St. Nick around the metro since the '80s, including a stint for many years at the Highland Park Chatterbox Pub.

This week, the Santa suit he had donned for so many years was accepted into the Minnesota Historical Society's collection.

"Known as Santa Leo, Treadway brought Christmas joy to children, families, community organizations, company parties and more throughout his Santa career," the MNHS said.

Treadway was featured in this Pioneer Press article 10 years ago during the depths of the financial crisis, changing his usual act so that instead of offering toys, he would offer words of advice and challenge them to be better people.

Among his claims to fame was being the only second-generation member of Minnesota's North Star Santas, a group of "real-bearded" Saint Nic's, and originally started out wearing a suit his father used to play Santa in New Jersey in the '70s.

Since then, he acquired his own 25-pound velvet coat, pants and hat, made by Macalester College costume designer Lynn Farrington.

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"I was very insistent that all my costuming look like clothing which the character would actually wear… .and that it not look like a ‘costume,’" Treadway said in a press release.

He added to his costume a shirt and vest styled after Finnish Santa Joulupukki, which was designed by another Twin Cities costume designer, Sarah Maas.

"Santa Leo's suit is the very first in the collection," said Minnesota Historical Society 3D curator Sondra Reierson. "It’s especially notable because it was designed and made locally and comes with such a compelling personal Minnesota story."

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