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Hernando neighbors | Santa Claus (a.k.a. Phillip Hendrix, 49)

Behind the suit: Hernando's Santa tells what his job's like

Ashley Adams, 7, shares with Santa Claus her wish list for Christmas at the East Hernando Branch Library in Ridge Manor. Santa was in town double-checking his list with girls and boys.

JEAN HAYES | Times

Ashley Adams, 7, shares with Santa Claus her wish list for Christmas at the East Hernando Branch Library in Ridge Manor. Santa was in town double-checking his list with girls and boys.

How long have you lived in Hernando County, and where do you live? Where did you live previously?

I do not live in Hernando County, but I do visit here several times each year. I live at the North Pole and I have for as long as I can remember. It's extremely cold up at the North Pole, so I do like to come south and enjoy some of your warm Florida sunshine and Southern hospitality whenever I can.

Who are the members of your family?

Mrs. Claus and I have a whole world full of children. We like to think that they all belong to us, at least for a while. We are thankful that parents share their little ones with us and that we can help bring smiles to their faces.

We also have a fairly large family of elves and helpers that we are extremely proud of and very close to. And I must not forget my favorite reindeer — Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen and Rudolph.

Tell us about your career.

My career is mysterious and unique. It began a long time ago and hopefully it will never end. It can be a very demanding job, but the rewards are many. My job is magical and a bit secretive.

What kinds of activities are you involved in now?

Checking all of my lists and getting all of the Christmas toys and gifts ready are my top priority right now. I try to visit with as many children as I can in December. Fortunately, I have a lot of great helpers with this monumental task.

Tell me more about that.

In December I can be found at most shopping malls, at elementary schools and in nursing homes. You might see me in parades and at parties. Children line up to tell me what they want for Christmas and to have their picture taken with me. Some of the very little ones are afraid of me and many cry, but I don't take it personally. They always grow out of that.

What are your favorite things to do in Hernando County?

My favorite place to go in Hernando County is Rogers' Christmas House Village. Even after being surrounded by the spirit of Christmas all year, it doesn't get any better than Rogers'.

Some of my other favorite spots are the beaches, the parks and the Weeki Wachee River, where I have seen manatees and mermaids. You can also find me checking out books from the public libraries, getting some exercise on the golf courses, and, of course, dining in many of my favorite eating establishments.

Do you have any special hobbies?

I'm not sure if cookie eating is a hobby, but I am really good at it.

What do you think would make Hernando County a better place to live?

Personally, I think that having some snow at Christmastime would make Hernando County just perfect.

Tell us something about yourself that most people don't know.

My name is Phillip Hendrix, and I have been impersonating the "Big Guy" for about 10 years.

My grandmother, Alice Maude Hendrix, known to all as Grandma Hendrix, played the town Santa for almost 20 years.

My brother Lonnie also took on the role up in the Ocala area. When cancer took away his health and his weight, he added padding and continued spreading Christmas joy until his passing. So this is a bit of a family tradition.

This hobby has brought me to preschool classrooms, elementary school stages, day care facilities, Hernando County public libraries, private homes and parties.

I was born and raised here in Brooksville. I am a Hernando County government employee, and my wife, Joan, works for the Hernando County School Board. We have two children: Jessica and Justin, both college students with graduation in sight.

Hernando Neighbors is an occasional feature of the Hernando Times. Do you know someone who would make a good profile? We'd like to hear from you. Contact Jean Hayes, community news coordinator, at jhayes@sptimes.com or (352) 848-1438.

Behind the suit: Hernando's Santa tells what his job's like 12/21/08 [Last modified: Sunday, December 21, 2008 8:00pm]
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