Santa says he does it for ‘the joy of Christmas’
November 28, 2008
It’s all real. The long beard, the white hair and the big round stomach.
“Thanksgiving dinner helps a lot,” Gary Ashby said patting his side, “which is good.”
That’s why children immediately knew he was Santa Claus when they saw him in the Carson Mall Friday, Ashby said. After 38 years of starring as Kris Kringle for plays, at malls and in schools, he said he only does it for one reason.
“The joy of Christmas, really, and keeping the kids happy,” he said. “That’s what the season is all about.”
Ashby took pictures with children from babies to teens as shoppers stopped by to see him during the first day of the holiday shopping season.
Photographers clapped, waved, smiled and rang bells to get Natalie Boggs’ 5-month-old daughter, Samantha, to smile long enough for her picture with Ashby. This is the girl’s first picture with Santa, Boggs said.
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“I saw little kids running into a store down there and they’re like, ‘Santa’s here! Santa’s here!'” Boggs said. “So I grabbed her and I ran down here real quick. I’ve really been waiting to get her picture with Santa.”
Boggs said her daughter will get a new jumper and maybe a high chair for her first Christmas, but gifts are difficult to pick because “she can’t really do much.”
The picture with Santa, she said, “is just something fun for us moms to see them with Santa for the first time. It’s a tradition.”
Santa Claus has been important to Ashby since he played him in his first radio drama on the American Forces Network while stationed with the Air Force in Korea.
He’s also answered letters to Santa Claus for the U.S. Postal Service, but playing Santa in person is where he can teach children the most.
Ashby said he might tell them about the Northern Lights, quiz them on the details of their wish lists or tell them about how global warming threatens the habitats of polar bears.
“They get a well-rounded visit with me,” he said. “All the way through.”
Chris Moore of Dayton said his 2-year-old son, David, was excited to see Santa and tell him about the Mr. Potato Head he wanted this year.
The boy stared over his father’s shoulder as they walked away from the giant presents surrounding Ashby’s sleigh.
“Yeah,” Moore said, “he want to go back up there now.”
– Contact reporter Dave Frank at email@example.com or 881-1212.