A Legendary Santa helped deliver the most significant professional sporting event in Richmond’s history to the city’s doorstep.
Allen Rothert, the city’s special events coordinator, played a vital behind-the-scenes role in preparation for the UCI Road World Championships. If it needed to be built, planted, changed, moved, painted or swept, chances are good Rothert was involved to some extent.
Rothert’s job title is accurate. His duty is to coordinate. Think of him as a conduit through which ideas, suggestions and, ultimately, execution flow.
Today, he is choreographing the ballet of city services essential to the success of the UCI Road World Championships. He has worked at other times on projects ranging from local festivals to the Steven Spielberg motion picture “Lincoln.”
“People tell me I’m very detail-oriented,” said Rothert, 65. “Whether that’s true, I don’t know. All I know is, I like to make things happen. I like to see things come together. I enjoy the challenge of dealing with multiple assignments at the same time.”
His bosses have noticed. Selena Cuffee-Glenn, the city’s chief administrative officer, said Rothert’s skills include not only planning, preparation and organization, but also improvisation.
“He’s always prepared for whatever comes up,” she said.
Mayor Dwight C. Jones noted Rothert’s 45 years of city service. Said Jones: “That’s a lifetime — which I’m willing to bet makes him one of the most experienced special events coordinators around.”
Experienced and passionate. Rothert doesn’t merely perform his job. He understands it. He enjoys it.
The investment of time and toil invariably is worthwhile, he said, because special events “say so much about who we are as a community. They add so much to our quality of life.”
Richmond traditions are dyed deeply into the fabric of Rothert’s life. He marched in the Tobacco Festival Parade as a Benedictine High School cadet. He played Joseph in the annual nativity pageant. He designed and helped to assemble floats for the Christmas parade. And he has performed for the past 17 years as a Legendary Santa.
If you’ve taken a child to Tea with Santa in recent years, you probably have seen Rothert in one of his favorite roles.
“I love doing it,” he said. “I love everything about it — especially the generational aspect and the tradition. I love it when kids come back with children of their own and say, ‘I remember doing this when I was a little girl.’”
He said he receives “a minor stipend” for his yuletide work. “But you know what? I enjoy it so much, I think I’d do it for nothing.”
Rothert honed his multitasking skills in humble surroundings. He worked for 20 years as a city playground counselor. In that capacity, he said, he routinely was responsible for “40, maybe 50 kids at one time … which meant I was learning to deal with 40-50 different issues at the one time.”
He may have reached his apogee this week — which would be appropriate, because he and cycling long have traveled in tandem.
Rothert, a former recreational rider, at his peak could consume more than 100 miles in a single outing. He helped bring two other cycling competitions — the Tour DuPont and the CapTech Classic — to Richmond.
But this week is different. It will be special. He called the UCI Road World Championships “the World Cup or maybe the Olympics of cycling.”
His professional assessment of the magnitude of the event: “It’s without a doubt the biggest thing we’ve ever done,” he said. “It’s the culmination of a career.”
His sense of fulfillment is predictably deep. From a personal perspective, he said, “There’s a lot of pride. It’s — I don’t know — it’s a really hard thing to describe. We’ve been working toward this moment for almost five years. And now we can say, ‘It’s here. We’ve done it. We pulled it off.’”
From a civic perspective, he said, “The past five years have been an incredible exercise in regional cooperation. Believe me: We’re going to come out on the other side a much better community because of it.”
Five years of work did not cease when the first race — the women’s team time trial — began Sunday at 11:30 a.m.
“At the end of each day, we’ll analyze what we did and how we did it,” Rothert said. “Then we’ll try to do it better the next day.”