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Shania Twain sleighs ’em as leader of the pack at Great Santa Run

2013 Great Santa Run in Downtown Las Vegas

Tom Donoghue/

Caesars Palace headliner Shania Twain serves as grand marshal for the 2013 Great Santa Run in downtown Las Vegas on Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013.

2013 Las Vegas Great Santa Run

Caesars Palace headliner Shania Twain serves as grand marshal for the 2013 Las Vegas Great Santa Run in downtown Las Vegas on Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013. Launch slideshow »

2013 Great Santa Run in Downtown Las Vegas

Santa Claus, Jace Crispin of Chippendales at the Rio, Mayor Carolyn Goodman and Gavin McHale attend the 2013 Great Santa Run on Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013, in downtown Las Vegas. Launch slideshow »
Click to enlarge photo

Shania Twain meets her husband Frederic Thiebaud at the finish line after his participation in the 2013 Great Santa Run in downtown Las Vegas on Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013.

She should look more harried and appear out of breath and maybe a little dazed. But there is not an air of dishevelment to Shania Twain as she has just navigated her way along Fremont Street with a crowd of 11,221 folks dressed as Santa.

In her ceremonial role as grand marshal of the annual Opportunity Village Great Santa Run, Twain began her morning by firing up the sea of would-be Santas. “I am so excited to be here!” she shouted from the Third Street Stage.

Moments later, during an onstage interview by Fox 5 “More” co-host and unfettered Shania fanatic Jason Feinberg, Twain teasingly shoved aside Feinberg’s mic and said, “Let me use my own microphone, OK?!”

“I’ve been dissed by Shania!” Feinberg laughed.

Twain was carried along in an open Jeep for much of this adventure. She was customarily pursued by a red river of revelers who shouted her name and scrambled up close for a photo.

Twain managed to catch up with her husband, Frederic Thiebaud (if you were passed on the route by No. 318, that was him) before being swept back to the event’s green room. In this case, the green room was parked behind the Third Street Stage, as it was actually a recreational vehicle rented for the event.

It’s been a long, cold, rowdy Saturday morning, and Twain has been at the center. Yet she is unaffected, smiling easily and seeming to be soft-lit like the star of a movie on the Hallmark Channel.

How can this be after such a madcap morning?

“I think that when you’re walking into a situation like this, and it’s a charity event, the spirit is warm and welcoming,” she says. “So it’s no stress is what I’m saying. I am very comfortable, and I enjoy being around people.”

Expand that precept to the times she is not hosting charity races for 11,200 Santas, and Twain is commonly comfortable all the time. Though not dressed in Santa gear, she is well-suited for this role.

“I like what I do, and I enjoy being around people,” she says. “I especially like being in the spirit of something like this. It did, personally, kick my Christmas season off, so I just felt like part of the community spirit and not the celebrity in the center of it all.

“I am just a part of it.”

The event was wildly successful, as concerns about bitter cold were allayed by the record-setting turnout. The event served as the Guinness World Record for the most runners dressed as Santas for a single gathering in history. The Great Santa Run has been in a spirited competition with Liverpool for that honor, and reps from England turned up at the event Saturday to see if they would hold the record of 10,700 they set the weekend before last.

Along with her husband, Twain was represented by her sister Carrie Ann Brown and members of her band at the Colosseum in Caesars Palace wearing Santa jackets with “Team Shania” stitched to the back.

Twain has made it apparent that she will be involved in the community in a more active way than just performing at Caesars. When she first arrived for that two-year stretch of shows, she sought to embrace the community through philanthropy. In October, she opened a local outpost of her Shania Kids Can charity at Tom Williams Elementary School in North Las Vegas.

Twain’s inspiration for opening that clubhouse has been one of Las Vegas’ great philanthropic figures.

“I have been very open from the beginning about wanting to get involved with the charity, and I was investigating what was being done here and wanted to find out more about Andre Agassi’s (College Preparatory) School and his efforts here,” she says. “Andre was my benchmark, and from there everybody just started talking about the Santa Run, and they invited me.”

Over the years, Twain has experienced Las Vegas through the prism of a tourist. “I’ve been impressed with the food, the galleries, all the shows — the people-watching alone is really fun,” she says. “The culture I’ve known has been a visitor’s culture, you could say, and as a visitor, I have always had a great time here.”

That focus changed when Twain was placed in the superstar montage of Colosseum resident headliners, joining Elton John, Celine Dion and Rod Stewart.

“I just wanted to dive in and integrate myself,” she says. “I wanted to get to know people, and I am having a great time. That’s No. 1, just to enjoy myself. As an entertainer, I am having a wonderful time. It’s a dream scenario for me, I’m enjoying the audiences, the room is gorgeous, the sound and the whole environment is a dream scenario for me.”

Given that the day has been centered on giving, and Santa, what is Twain’s earliest Santa memory?

“My first Santa was actually my father, but I actually thought it was really Santa for a long time,” she says, laughing. “So, it worked! But I kept looking back at the picture and I was saying, ‘Wait. That’s my father!’ He got me. I was 2 or 3 years old, but he really tricked me.”

Her time for this talk is up. Outside, there are more photos to be snapped, more folks to meet and a lot more to say. On a Las Vegas morning when Santa dominated the scene, Shania Twain gave a lot back.

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