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The Times gets frank with Kris Kringle
Santa Claus wishes everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

Sitting down with Santa Claus is like sitting down with an old friend. As a reporter, I have had several occasions to spend a little time with this jolly guy and was fortunate enough to draw the assignment again.

It’s been a busy year for Santa and tonight he will begin making his way around the world for his annual visit.The Times: Santa, first of all how are you?Santa: Well, I’m doing quite well. The elves made me a Nintendo Wii Fit system and I have actually been working out. There are a lot more boys and girls in the world and I needed to be ready for the big night.The Times: What are the popular items this year?Santa: For my smallest friends, Elmo is very popular again this year. We have lots of "Elmo Live" in my bag this year.

For the girls, there are lots of Barbies. Do you know that I delivered my first Barbie in 1959? That will be 50 years next Christmas. Of course, a lot of girls have asked for Hannah Montana items ... everything from clothes to guitars. Girls are also wanting items from "High School Musical."The Times: And what about the boys?

The boys continue to want the X-Box and we have made a lot of them this year. "Star Wars" continues to be requested by many, as well as "Transformers." There are a lot of boys who want Lego toys and those are very fun.The Times: Santa, you travel all over the world, do you have a favorite place?Santa: There is something special about every place I visit. Depending on the winds, I often come to Gainesville from the Northeast and I get to see the beautiful mountains. Do you know I’ve been coming to Gainesville for a long time. I can remember many years ago arriving early and seeing the lights of the streetcar running along Riverside Drive. I’m now delivering toys to the great-grandchildren of the boys and girls I saw in those days.

I can also remember in Hall County when families raised chickens right there in the yard. I used to chuckle when I would land the reindeer and sleigh on the roof and the chickens would run in every direction.The Times: Are there plenty of good boys and girl these days?Santa: There are many good boys and girls and I’m proud of each one of them. I love when girls and boys use good manners, are friendly to one another and help their families.

I do get disappointed when I hear of young people who are unkind to others and do not respect their parents. It makes me very sad.The Times: How are the reindeer?Santa: Everyone is doing fine. Donner had a little problem with a hoof earlier this year, but that’s fine now and all of the reindeer, including Rudolph, will be ready for the trip.The Times: Are you exhausted after your trip?Santa: All of us, the elves, the reindeer and myself are just worn out after going around the world on one night. But I’ve been doing it a long time and will be doing it for many years go come. We’ll take a break for a day or two but then, we start all over getting ready for next Christmas.