CLEVELAND — Mr. Jingeling, a beloved memory in the minds of Northeast Ohioans during the holiday season, will resurface not as a memory, but a reality for a new generation during his formal debut at Christmas Connection held at the I-X Center in November.
After a 26-year rest, Mr. Jingeling will return to his role as Cleveland's iconic harbinger of Christmas. Don Beck, who has played Santa throughout Northeast Ohio for 26 years, including at Castle Noel in Medina, will step into the suit and the role as Mr. Jingeling.
“When I put on the costume, Don isn’t there anymore,” Beck said. “I’m honored to join an elite list of people who have carried the ring of keys."
His presence around the holiday season can be traced to the historic Halle Brothers Department Store and the News 5 studios.
He would visit with the children on the seventh floor of the toy department.
An advertising agency had come up with the character of Mr. Jingeling to promote Christmas shopping at the Halle Brothers Department store. Mr. Jingeling was the important fictional elf who created a new set of keys to open Santa Claus's toy treasure house after he misplaced the keys.
When the department store closed in 1982, Mr. Jingeling moved down the street to Higbee’s. Mr. Jingeling also made seasonal appearances on The Captain Penny show, which aired on WEWS Channel 5.
The persona of Mr. Jingeling was played by various Clevelanders over the years including Earl Keyes, who was a Channel 5 cameraman when the station first went on air in 1947. After his death in 2000, John Awarski of Lakewood-based Traditions Alive hired Jonathan Wilhelm to fulfill the role at appearances around Northeast Ohio until 2012, when Greg Benedetto took over the role. Others who played Mr. Jingeling are Max Ellis and Tom Moviel.
After the two stores shuttered their doors in the early 2000s, the character faded away into the memories of Clevelanders and in photographs of tucked-away albums.
New Mr. Jingeling, New suit
While a couple of decades have passed, Mr. Jingeling is back with a whole new look— a new green velvet suit, a shiny gold-and-black belt, and oversized key rings.
“We are so excited to add Mr. Jingeling to the family,” said Jimmy Langa, chief creative officer for Mr. Kringle & Company, who acquired the usage rights of the character. “We are bringing this iconic character back to life through appearances, video, social media and several special events, including a return to Halle’s and other downtown locations.”
Langa said while the new Mr. Jingeling will bring back memories for those who once greeted him every holiday season, the new version will appeal to a new generation.
“It was important for us to create a more authentic portrayal because kids are different these days and their expectations are higher. We hope that our 2021 Mr. Jingeling will appeal to the modern kid and excite a new generation of believers.”
Beck is taking his role seriously, shaving the long beard he had for 40 years. He will style his own white hair into Mr. Jingeling’s signature upswept style.
Mr. Jingeling will make his formal debut on Nov. 19 through the 21st at the Christmas Connection.
Mr. Kringle & Company and Mr. Jingeling are planning something special in tandem with Downtown Cleveland’s Winterfest on Saturday, Nov. 27. Details will be released in early November.
“I’ve been gone for a little while, but I’m glad to be back and I’m so looking forward to seeing all of you!” Beck said.
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