Sunday, December 17, 2017
News Roundup

Q&A: What's Santa up to?

For the past 12 years, Santa and Mrs. Claus have made Westfield Brandon one of their special pre-Christmas destinations — greeting families, taking wishes from boys and girls from 3 to 93 (sometimes 94, as we learned) and posing for photos with the nice and the naughty. • It's undoubtedly a joy for the couple, but it also adds up to some long days. • "The kids know Santa and Mrs. Claus as the ones who give the presents out," Mrs. Claus said. "But truthfully they are the ones who give the presents to us. There is so much warmth in all of them. You can feel it in each hug. The kids are what keeps us coming back." • Just before another session, the jolly fellow and his wife sat down with Tampa Bay Times correspondent Brandon Wright to answer a few questions about why they strive to bring joy to all who come to visit.

What about this particular community has brought you back here for the past 12 years?

Santa: The people have been so kind to us and they have grown up with us. It's been special to see the same kids and families throughout the years. This community has been amazing.

Mrs. Claus: The parents have told us how much they love the consistency of seeing us year after year. And children need that consistency in their lives.

It must be cool to know you have been on 12 years' worth of Christmas cards in area homes.

Santa: There are a lot of parents who bring those cards to us to show us. Some of them have made posters with photos from their visit with us and given them to us to keep. To see the kids' development is so great. We've taken all the ones they have given us and made quite a scrapbook full at the North Pole.

What are the most requested gifts this year?

Santa: Rainbow looms. They are these rubber bands that kids can take and weave. They wear them everywhere.

Mrs. Claus: All ages love them, from the younger children to the older ones.

Santa: Then there is the Skylanders.

Mrs. Claus: And Zoomer, he's a robot dog.

Santa: And, of course, anything Lego.

I love stepping on those in the middle of the night.

Santa: Yep, we've heard that before.

You must have thousands of pounds of children who sit on your leg each day during the holiday season. Any strength training to get ready for all this?

Santa: Not really. We just try to stay healthy and keep active. Plus the reindeer and elves keep us very busy.

Mrs. Claus: We don't count pounds but we do a kid count.

Santa: Every season we have 10- to 12,000 kids who come to see us here. That's a lot of children.

The classic Christmas card has a smiling child on your lap but we both know that isn't the case all the time. What do you do when a kid isn't so thrilled to see you?

Santa: Mrs. Claus is great with the kids when that happens.

Mrs. Claus: Most of it is that they are just a little scared of Santa when they are very young. So I try to soothe them and frequently they will sit on my lap and talk to Santa. Most of the time we can calm them down.

So you work really hard during this particular time of year. Where do you go on vacation?

Santa: We like to take a Santa cruise. We went to Panama last year.

Mrs. Claus: There were only a few children on the ship, but the adults were even more excited to see us.

Santa: We could have paid for the whole trip if we charged for pictures.

What is the strangest request you have received over the years?

Santa: One young boy asked us to remove his brother's stinky shoes. That was what I would call unusual.

Mrs. Claus: But nothing is too unusual in a child's mind.

Who is the oldest person to come sit on your lap?

Santa: There was a 94-year-old man who was a pilot in World War II in the Philippines. The only thing he wanted for Christmas was for someone to listen to his stories. He sat on my lap for about 30 minutes.

Mrs. Claus: And the youngest was 2 years old. We've had that happen twice. It'll be hard to beat those.

You eat a lot of milk and cookies.

Santa: Yes I do. Check out the size of this belt.

Chocolate milk or white milk?

Santa: Chocolate.

Mrs. Claus: I have to put him on a diet starting Christmas Day.

The Elf on the Shelf has been getting a lot of attention the last few years. Are you jealous of the notoriety, or is he a big help?

Santa: No, they are a big help. I always ask the children their Elf's name and tell them how important they are to me.

Mrs. Claus: They report back to us every night, so we remind the children to make sure the Elf sees them being good.

Santa: And we always make sure it's within earshot of the parents.

I'm sure you get some really pretty girls who come to sit on your lap. Does Mrs. Claus ever get jealous?

Mrs. Claus: Never.

Santa: She has nothing to worry about at all. I'm all hers.

Sunday Conversation is edited for brevity and clarity.

Why Jon Gruden was the best mistake the Bucs ever made

Why Jon Gruden was the best mistake the Bucs ever made

Warren Sapp pointed to the sky. And then he dropped Kurt Warner to the ground.The Bucs had just intercepted Warner for the fourth time. Sapp’s block cleared the way for Derrick Brooks to cross the goal line and clinch the win.Before Tampa Bay p...
Updated: 3 hours ago

Woman, 24, hit by Land Rover, in critical condition

LARGO — A 24-year-old woman is in critical condition after she was struck by a vehicle Saturday night, police said.Khadijah Wood was walking through the parking lot of the Sandy Lane Apartment Homes on Belcher Road about 7:30 p.m.At the same time, Ju...
Updated: 10 minutes ago

Warm, sunny Sunday in Tampa Bay

ST. PETERSBURG — It’s another bright, sunny day in Tampa Bay. 10News WTSPThe latest Tampa Bay-area radar 10News WTSPFeels-like temperatures around the Tampa Bay areaHigh temperatures should reach about 80 d...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Murder suspect is on the run after fatally shooting a father, cops say

Murder suspect is on the run after fatally shooting a father, cops say

A first-degree murder suspect remains at large almost a week after the fatal shooting of a Winter Haven father.The Polk County Sheriff’s Office says Johnny Ray Owsley’s murder of 35-year-old Adam Thrower, called "Cook" by friends, involved Owsley’s e...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Lightning wins at Avalanche with four-goal second period

Lightning wins at Avalanche with four-goal second period

DENVER — The Lightning left for Las Vegas Saturday for the first of four nights in Sin City.But Tampa Bay’s first regret came before it boarded the charter flight; the Lighting lamented making Saturday’s 6-5 win over the Avalanche much more thrilling...
Updated: 10 hours ago

Bucs’ Gerald McCoy, Lavonte David out for Monday’s game vs. Falcons

TAMPA — As if containing All-Pro Julio Jones and the Falcons offense isn’t challenging enough, the Bucs will try to do so Monday night without perhaps their top defensive players, tackle Gerald McCoy and linebacker Lavonte David.On Saturday, Bucs coa...
Updated: 12 hours ago
Trump defends tax plan, proclaims economy set ‘to rock’

Trump defends tax plan, proclaims economy set ‘to rock’

WASHINGTON — Closing in on the first major legislative achievement of his term, President Donald Trump on Saturday defended the Republican tax cut as a good deal for the middle class while boldly suggesting it could lead to explosive economic growth....
Published: 12/16/17
Aquarium reopens to divers

Aquarium reopens to divers

Florida Keys News BureauVisitors to Florida Keys Aquarium Encounters dive with among indigenous Keys fish Friday in Marathon. The attraction reopened Friday after closing just before Hurricane Irma hit the Florida Keys on Sept. 10. Although tourism f...
Published: 12/16/17
Florida moves to control booming, invasive iguanas

Florida moves to control booming, invasive iguanas

MIAMI — With burrowing iguanas showing up in people’s toilets and damaging expensive sewer lines, Florida wildlife managers are stepping up efforts to control the state’s booming population of the wild, invasive reptiles. The Florida Fish and Wildlif...
Published: 12/16/17

Fan helps fund Miami Stadium’s historic marker

MIAMI — For thousands of kids who grew up in Miami, going to the old Miami Stadium in the Allapattah neighborhood was a part of coming of age. Opened on Aug. 31, 1949, with a game between the Miami Sun Sox and Havana Cubans, two Class B Florida Inter...
Published: 12/16/17