Family to Largo commissioners: Santa at city event wasn't Santa-y enough
LARGO — Frances Behrman was immediately skeptical of the man who was supposed to be the main event at Largo's Breakfast with Santa event on Saturday.
This wasn't the old, white-bearded, hefty Santa the 7-year-old was familiar with, wrote her father, John Behrman, in an email to commissioners. This man was young, dark-haired and too skinny.
"She's a smart kid," Behrman, 34, said in an interview Wednesday. "She said, 'That's not Santa. That's a fake.'"
John Behrman and his wife, Kim, want their daughter to believe for as long as she's willing to, and they've worked hard to maintain that.
They buy wrapping paper different from the rolls they have around the house. They label the presents "From Santa" in fancy typeface. They have a mix of presents from them and presents from Santa, which they add under the tree overnight to make it look like the jolly gift giver stopped by while she slept.
So faced with their daughter's doubt at the event, John Behrman's wife, Kim, did what she had to do: convince Frances that this man was one of Santa's helpers, as the real Santa was too busy getting ready for his worldwide trip to deliver toys.
Frances, reluctant at first, eventually snapped a photo with him. John Behrman, concerned that other kids would have the same experience, and annoyed they paid $8 for the event, reached out to city officials.
"If they're going to do something like this, they should try to make it as realistic as possible for the kids' sake," he said.
Joan Byrne, the city's parks and recreation director, apologized in an email back to him and explained that the man who was originally supposed to play Santa was unable to attend at the last minute. In looking for a substitution, she said, they were less concerned with appearance and more concerned with personality.
"Our first goal was to have someone who would be engaging and 'jolly' with the children," she wrote. "His hair color and girth were not important criteria as the costume provided a white wig, beard and mustache as well as some extra padding."
She also suggested he bring Frances back to a free event at Largo Central Park this Saturday, where there will be a more realistic Santa, or, as Byrne wrote "has a real white beard and is wrinkly and chubby."