Santa Is From Tucson

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Here's a bit of interesting trivia. The famous Santa portrait pictured above was created in Tucson. Read on for more details:

You see his smiling face every holiday season: the jolly, rosy-cheeked, red-suited Coca-Cola Santa. This classic representation of Santa is as much a fixture of Christmas as the famous ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas poem that describes him. Yet not many know this timeless, jolly Santa was not originally thought up in a snowy landscape like his home in the North Pole, but in the warm sunshine of Tucson, Arizona at Westward Look Resort.

In the early 1930s, artist Haddon H. Sundblom was commissioned by The Coca-Cola Company to create a Santa that would be more appealing to children than the tall, thin, somewhat serious Kris Kringle of European legend. The resulting image, still popular today, was a Santa reputed to have brought cheer and a sense of optimism to a country that was struggling through the Great Depression and World War II.

Despite the snow-white beard and fur-lined red suit reminiscent of his North Pole roots, the Coca Cola Santa was first illustrated in the sunny Sonoran Desert at Westward Look Resort in Tucson. Working on his balcony at the resort, Sundblom brought Santa to life in 40 paintings for Coca-Cola.

In the late 1940’s, Lani and Sancy Nason, daughters of the resort’s owners at the time, were often used by Sundblom as models for his paintings. In one memorable illustration, Sundblom transformed Sancy into a young boy to convey the perfect Coca-Cola holiday message to both boys and girls. Though Lani and Sancy no longer live in Arizona, their mother still resides near Westward Look on three acres she and her husband retained after selling the resort in 1968.

Westward Look’s Tinaja Desert Gallery, located upstairs at the resort, still houses Sundblom’s memorabilia and drawings for visitors and locals alike to enjoy.

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