Santa Claus sat outside of his house in downtown Lincolnton for three weeks waving at passing traffic and learning the Christmas wishes of local children.
If there was any doubt whether Lincolntonâ€™s Santa was 100 percent real, all a child had to do was take a big tug on the old manâ€™s beard.
â€œThis right here tells it all,â€ said Santa, pulling it himself.
When Santa feels like going incognito, he pretends to be â€œGeorge Deon Sr.,â€ a preacher with 20 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
The disguise doesnâ€™t always work, however. Even on his off season, Deon gets recognized.
â€œEven if Iâ€™m going to Walmart I hear, â€˜Mommy, thereâ€™s Santa Claus!â€ he said.
While doing his holiday duties outside of his house on Main Street, Santa was often yelled at by passersby. Sometimes it was a cheerful greeting such as â€œMerry Christmas!â€ Other times it was something slightly less appropriate such as â€œHey sexy!â€
â€œI donâ€™t hear half of them,â€ said Santa. â€œI just have fun with it.â€
Some children proved less friendly and needed a little coaxing to get close to good old St. Nick.
â€œUsually if the parents will listen to me, out of five kids who are scared, I get four to sit on my lap,â€ he said.
His master technique is to have the mother sit on his knee with her child in her arms. It works like charm.
Santa also has a technique for disarming children who are beginning to doubt his existence.
After 20 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren, this Santa Claus knows a little bit about children of a certain age.
â€œWhy is your room a mess? Why do you talk back to your mother?â€ he asks them. â€œThe mothers usually act as shocked as the kids that I know all that.â€
Despite such difficult questioning, Santa lives up to his jolly reputation.
â€œAll kids are good. Every child has a good part to them,â€ he said. â€œI think theyâ€™re precious.â€
While sitting on Santaâ€™s lap the most popular requests this Christmas season were for American Dolls, four-wheelers, stereos and computers.
Santa makes sure to never promise anything he canâ€™t deliver. He reminds children that what theyâ€™re saying to him is a wish list. If they donâ€™t get the computer or American Doll this Christmas, there is always their birthdays.
Adults also sit on Santas lap and make requests. The most popular wish for the over 20 crowd is cash. Santa says heâ€™s served everyone from 3-month old babies to folks older than himself.
All these visitors get a picture and candy from Santaâ€™s helper, an elf named Scott Deon, who attends West Lincoln Middle School.
This particular elf has helped Santa for three years, ever since third grade. Santa himself has heard wish lists at Christmas for 14 years.
Despite such a large tenure in the red suit, Santa still borrows the outfit from the city of Lincolnton. He plans on getting one of his own next year.
The three weeks that he was in town, Santa spent most of his time sitting on a chair in the cold. When the weather was especially bad he took refuge in his little home.
â€œIf the wind is blowing, it will go right through this,â€ he said of his suit.
Santa works on a deadline, and he has many things to do and people to see before Christmas Eve. The jolly old elf said goodbye to Lincolnton on Saturday, and says thereâ€™s one thing heâ€™s truly looking forward to: â€œThe day after Christmas.â€by Sarah Grano