Make us your home page
Instagram

300 Santa Clauses coming to town for convention

TAMPA — You better watch out, 300 Santas are coming to town

Tampa hosts its fair share of trade shows but this week will bring hundreds of professional Santas and their helpers to the DoubleTree by Hilton for the area's first International Santa Celebration.

And they won't be hard to spot.

Tampa Santa Bob Elkin, president of the local chapter of the host International Brotherhood of Real Bearded Santas, said in the offseason it's difficult to hide a long white beard, so most dress in red or green T-shirts year-round and wink when kids recognize them in grocery stores.

"We call it 'Santa casual,' " he said of the wardrobe.

You can expect to see herds of Santas as they head out for excursions on the golf course, see the mermaids of Weeki Wachee or ride the roller coasters of Busch Gardens while they are in town for a weekend of seminars, workshops and a trade show. The Columbia restaurant dining room will be thick with St. Nicks Thursday and Friday night during the convention with tables reserved for jolly old elves.

On Thursday, the public is invited to check out the Santa sleigh showcase from noon to 5 p.m. at the hotel, and the Santas want you to bring them a gift: Help them reach their goal of donating 100 pints of blood to the community blood bank.

There will be about 16 sleighs in front of the hotel, ranging from a vintage red Jaguar to an antique sleigh used for professional photographs. Kids can vote for their favorite sleigh, get free photos and autographs, and Elkin, who is the Santa at the Florida Aquarium every holiday season, will bring his cyber sleigh, an LED-decorated ride with hydraulics that simulates the reindeer-fueled trip.

WWE Hall of Famer Mick Foley, who is building a second career in standup comedy, will also be there for photos and autographs from noon to 5 p.m. at the hotel, 4500 W Cypress St.

After the blood drive and sleigh showcase, the weekend gets down to the serious business of supporting Santas who are professionally trained, background-checked and insured. They work in malls and corporate parties, visit hospitals and anchor parades.

Elkin, 73, has been on the Santa circuit for 20 years in a hobby that doesn't make too much profit, but is all about "collecting smiles."

According to Payscale.com, a professional Santa can earn $100 to $200 an hour depending on the organization and the Santa's experience. But they only work about 40 days a year, and people paying the high end of the scale expect to see Santa in a quality fuzzy red suit that can cost $400 to $2,000 depending on just how flashy he wants it to be. And most have at least two suits, because with a line of sniffling, diapered tots, it can be a messy business.

There are Santa Claus schools and fraternal and professional organizations, such as the International Brotherhood of Real Bearded Santas' local chapter, called the Palm Tree Santas. There are about 800 members of the national organization, Elkin said.

So how are kids supposed to react to a ballroom full of Santas when they've been told there's only one true Santa Claus flying around the world on Christmas Eve?

"Rumors persist the real Santa will make an appearance," the Palm Tree Santas say, so it will be up to the kids to figure out which one of the hundreds there is the one true St. Nick.

.if you go

Sleigh showcase and blood drive

As part of the Santa Claus convention in town this week, the public is invited Thursday to check out a showcase of the sleighs these Santas from around the country use for photos and parades. Kids can vote for their favorite sleigh, get free photos and autographs. WWE Hall of Famer Mick Foley will also sign autographs from noon to 5 p.m. at the Doubletree Hotel by Hilton, 4500 W Cypress St., Tampa. The Santas also hope to donate 100 pints of blood to the community blood bank.

300 Santa Clauses coming to town for convention 05/12/14 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 13, 2014 10:00pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for May 28

    Events

    Alabama: The country music all-timers hit the road for the Southern Drawl tour with openers, the Charlie Daniels Band. 7 p.m., Amalie Arena, 401 Channelside Drive, Tampa. $26-$86. (813) 301-2500.

    Handout photo of Alabama, performing 5/28/17 at Amalie Arena in Tampa. Credit: Alan Messer
  2. Find serenity at Grand Cayman Island's Cemetery Beach

    Travel

    GRAND CAYMAN ISLAND

    Hey, cruisers, if you've been to Hell and back, snuggled with the stingrays and taken photos with the turtles at the Cayman Turtle Centre, you might be looking for something different on your next trip. (Guilty!)

    Good snorkeling can be found off shore at Cemetery Beach in Grand Cayman.
  3. Karen Bail, who helped Gibbs kids get to Broadway, retires

    Stage

    ST. PETERSBURG — When neatnicks retire, they leave no trace behind. Their desks are clean, like a runway after the plane has taken off.

    Karen Bail warms up seniors Jonathan O’Brien, left, as Juan Peron and Addam Setzer as Che Guevara before the dress rehearsal of Evita in April.
  4. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for May 27

    Events

    Tampa Bay Margarita Festival: The Barenaked Ladies will headline this festival with opener Cowboy Mouth. Enjoy more than 50 varieties of margarita drinks including a Sriracha strawberry, a bacon rita and even a jalapeno Cabo rita. There's beer and vodka for the non-tequila drinkers. Noon, Curtis Hixon Park, 600 N …

    istockphoto
  5. A forgotten ballad from The Princess Bride? Inconceivable!

    Blogs

    As we wrap up May Movie Month on Lost and Found, we seek the perfect ride-off-in-the-sunset movie song.  For those who love storybook endings, perhaps your favorite '80s movie is The Princess Bride. Would you like to see the video for that perfect ending of a Storybook Love? As you wish.