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Local Santa lands a movie role

By ThisIsReno
Published: Last Updated on
Vanessa Lachey, Ryan McPartlin and Tom Strekel in "Once Upon A Main Street."

By William Puchert

For the past decade retired biologist Tom Strekal has made playing Santa Claus a labor of love. 

He has been a regular at various northern Nevada holiday events such as the V&T Railroad’s Polar Express and the Sparks Hometown Christmas Parade.

Tom Strekel at the KUNR studio
Tom Strekal at the KUNR studio. Image: KUNR

Strekal is well known in the community a former President of the Proscenium Players, Inc. in Carson City and President of Capital Community Concert Association, emceeing events like the Nevada Society of Scottish Clans, Robert Burns Dinner and as a weekend host one KUNR-FM.  

While Strekal has performed in community theater productions in the past, he found playing the jolly old St. Nick, which he started doing as a favor to a friend hosting a Christmas Party years ago, was a part he loved because he made a certain connection with children. 

“I embraced the persona of the holiday season and discovered (playing the role) was fun,” he said. “I look the kids in the eyes and discovered I could make them feel special.”

Unfortunately due to the pandemic and the associated social distancing and gathering restrictions that have come with it, he has drastically scaled back his role of playing this year.

However, due to chance encounter with a crew member of a Lifetime network holiday movie production who was filming in his West Carson City historical neighborhood back in September, he landed the part of Santa for the movie.

It turns out Strekal’s neighborhood of 19th Century homes around the Governor’s Mansion in West Carson City is a popular movie production site as he has witnessed a few different movies being made there in recent years. While hanging out watching the production crew and seeing the set construction and snow making he was hoping to be noticed. 

“I thought they should know who’s here, so I printed this photo, wrote my name and phone number on the back and walked it over to the assistant director and said, ‘I know you’ve already got your cast, but, should you ever need Santa, I live right around the corner’ and started walking away,” he said. “I took three steps and the director shouted, ‘Hey, wait minute! How soon can you be ready?’”

Strekal says he’ll appear in at least two scenes in “Once Upon A Main Street,” premiering at 8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 29 on Lifetime starring Vanessa Lachey, Ryan McPartlin and Patrick Duffy (who played Bobby Ewing on Dallas).

Willie Puchert is former journalist for a few local newspapers.

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