Lybert is now a man in demand, making appearances at Griz games, private residences, downtown businesses, the Watson Children’s Shelter, Big Sky Brewery and even Hooters.
“I can be a bad Santa,” he says, showing off a photo of Santa guzzling “Griz Whiz” punch at a tailgate party.
“Hooters can’t wait for us to come,” adds Janet, his wife. “They comp all our food and drinks.”
Janet is Santa’s partner. Wearing the classic red-and-white dress, she is a modern rendering of Mrs. Claus. She rocks a nose ring, her grandmother’s pearls and a wig of snow-white ringlets.
As the Lyberts tell their story, they’re interrupted by a wide-eyed 7-year-old boy stunned to be in such close proximity to the Clauses. Once he finds the nerve to speak, he sits on Santa’s lap and asks for a train set.
“It’s not just the kids who love it,” says Janet. “The adults are more kids than the kids. Like, the biggest, burliest guy you’ll meet will come over and ask Santa for a hug.”
Each year the Lyberts begin their tour of duty after Thanksgiving and impersonate the Clauses until Christmas day. By season’s end they begin making home visits, and that’s when the power of Santa becomes most apparent.
Last year, the Lyberts visited a little girl who had a sharing problem.
“We asked the girl if she had been good and she said ‘yes,’” says Janet. “We told her that we’d heard she had a problem sharing and she was like, ‘No, no, please.’” The little girl agreed to work on her problem, Janet says, and then she got a gift from Santa himself.