A fantasy for many children has become a Brazil resident's everyday experience.
"In a way, I get to spend each day with Santa Claus," Dave Snyder said. "I get to live the dream that many children have growing up."
Snyder began carving Santas approximately 12 years ago, and he started Almost Christmas in 2002 because of an increasing popularity in his creations.
"Ever since I was a little kid, I have always loved Santa because he is exciting," he said. "Over the years, I have created a strong following and many people come back year after year."
Initially, he hand-carved each Santa, but the demand quickly increased to the point where Snyder needed to make a change.
"At first, everything was done with a pocket knife and a broomstick," Snyder said. "Now, I carve one, which is used to create a mold, and the rest are made out of high-quality resin. Each one is also hand-painted with the hair and whiskers painted on using toothpicks."
To maintain the uniqueness of the pieces, Snyder only creates 450 of each style of Santa.
"If there is less than 500 pieces of an item made, it is considered a collector's item," he said. "I typically select two new Santas and an ornament to introduce each year, and once the last one has sold, I retire that design."
To this point, 14 different styles have been retired, and Snyder intends to keep making collectible Santas despite subtle pushing to expand.
"I've had many people tell me I could make a higher amount and become rich," he said. "But I have a wonderful family, great friends and my faith, so I am rich right now."
However, having a limited supply of each style has drawn the attraction of collectors across the globe.
"My Santas are now in all 50 states, plus in South America, Europe and Asia," Snyder said. "I've even had one couple from western Illinois drive here and come to my house to purchase a couple of my hand-carved walking sticks."
Snyder said he does still hand-carve each walking stick on his own, and occasionally makes custom creations for fireplace mantles and Mrs. Claus.
He also does some traveling throughout the year to various conventions and craft shows to promote Almost Christmas even further.
"I go down to Gatlinburg, Tenn., a few times a year, with the highlight being the Celebrate Santa convention where many Santas request customized walking sticks to use at malls and parades," he said. "Almost Christmas has a huge following in the southeast part of the country, and some people even plan their vacations around the various fairs and conventions."
Recently, Snyder showed off his creations at the Clay County Popcorn Festival, and is currently set up at the Bridgeton Olde Town Hall for the Parke County Covered Bridge Festival.
"I will only be at the Bridge Festival through Saturday because I'm back to Gatlinburg for the Craftmen's Fair, which begins Oct. 18," Snyder said. "After that, I will be in Indianapolis Nov. 10-14, for the Christmas Gift and Hobby Show, which is my final appearance of the year."
Snyder added his business boomed even further after the creation of his website.
"I have a couple Brazil residents who help me out immensely with the site," he said. "Shawn Wallace is the webmaster and Gary Ames takes the photos that appear on the site. Since the site opened, sales have gone way up and I have done a lot of my business over the Internet."
Snyder said orders of his newest creations ("Tobe," "Obie" and ornament "Chester"), along with other active styles, may be placed through the site (www.almostchristmas.com) or by phone at 448-8575.
"They are very nice pieces and something that can be handed down for generations," Snyder said. "With each style having a limited supply, they quickly become family heirlooms, just like the first one I ever carved, which my daughter now has."