During his many stops throughout Sarasota and Lakewood Ranch, Santa Claus sat down with the East County Observer to dish on his favorite cookies, the North Pole and why he can't bring you Justin Bieber as a Christmas present.
Do you need to go to the bathroom while you're out on the sleigh? (Heyden Kubelko, 9, third-grader, B.D. Gullett Elementary)
"I am on the sleigh 24 hours in the day. There's no way I could do that and not have places to go. I have stops where I can take care of my business, but I won't use bathrooms in people's houses. But there's no way I could go around the world in 24 hours and not use the bathroom."
How many elves does Santa have? (Sienna Dwizinski, 10, fifth-grader, B.D. Gullett Elementary)
"I have thousands, lots of elves. A lot of people have Elves on the Shelves, but I have undercover elves who see who's naughty and nice. That's how Santa knows who's naughty and nice. He has lots of helpers. Santa can't do it all himself. Elves help Santa a lot on Christmas Eve, too."
Do you know my Elf on the Shelf, Bob? (Grace Vilasi, 9, fourth-grader, Robert E. Willis Elementary)
"Yes, I do. He's one of my many thousands of elves, and he reports to me on Grace. I can't remember everything at once, though. Santa has to keep records. He has a computer where he keeps information. I had someone ask me what I brought him last year, and I can look it up on my computer. I can't remember everything off the top of my head."
How do reindeer fly? (Uriah Long, 5, voluntary pre-kindergarten, Kiddie Academy of Lakewood Ranch)
"It's Santa magic, and I can't share that secret."
Where in the North Pole do the elves live? (Natalia Simone, voluntary pre-kindergarten, Kiddie Academy of Lakewood Ranch)
"We have a Pole house in a North Pole community. We all have our own houses, but it's like a little community. We all work on toys, but our house isn't where you can find us. They'll never take a picture of the North Pole where Santa lives from space. We're kind of hidden."
How big is Santa's toy bag? (Lilyan Krzysiak, voluntary pre-kindergarten at Kiddie Academy of Lakewood Ranch)
"It's pretty big, but it's also magical in how much it can hold. I just never run out of stuff in my bag. When I reach in my bag, I know to grab what toys are meant for that house. Here's what a lot of people don't realize: Santa has an advanced GPS on his sleigh. So when I land on the roof, it tells me who lives there, if they're awake or asleep, good or bad and what they want for Christmas. I don't have to know that you went to Grandma's house instead of being at home. When I get to Grandma's house, I'll know you're there."
What is Santa's favorite type of cookie? (Ty Patterson, 5, voluntary pre-kindergarten, Kiddie Academy of Lakewood Ranch)
"Homemade cookies are my favorite. The reason I say that is because I like a variety of cookies. If I got the same type of cookie at every house, it would get really old. Whatever your favorite homemade cookies is, make that. Santa likes all kinds of cookies."
How does Santa make thousands of presents that fast? (Jake Morales, third-grader at Robert E. Willis Elementary)
"Santa doesn't make all the toys alone. He also has to check on who's naughty and nice. So the elves help with toy making. And there are some presents we can't make. Some presents we have to buy, like some of the electronic toys. DS3, PS4 and video game stuff, we can't make those. We have to buy them. We can't make money either. Some kids will ask me for money, and I can't do that. I'll get requests for boyfriends or girlfriends, Justin Bieber, things like that, and I can't do that. I can't kidnap people. There are certain things Santa can't do. I get all kinds of requests."
How long does it take to get to the North Pole? (Madison Johnson, 7, second-grader at Robert E. Willis Elementary)
"It takes a lot less time than it would if you flew in an airplane. The reindeer are fast, supersonic. That's how Santa gets all the way around the world in one night. We get around fast. I'm not going to tell you how quick it is, but it's fast."
What did Santa use to fly his sleigh before he had reindeer? (Max Morales, 5, kindergartener at Robert E. Willis Elementary)
"Santa didn't really fly his sleigh before he had reindeer. In the very early days, Santa didn't fly at all. He was just delivering to small areas. I've been using the reindeer for a long time, but before them, I couldn't really fly around the world. Reindeer made it possible for Santa to go around the world."
Which reindeer is your favorite? Why? (Carly Redman, third-grader at Ashton Elementary)
"That's like asking a parent which child is their favorite. They're all my favorites for different reasons. Vixen is the smallest of the reindeer, and he's really shy. Comet and Cupid are also a little shy, very gentle. They don't like to be photographed very much. Donder is one of the larger, older leaders of the group — Donder and Blitzen really. Rudolph leads but Donder and Blitzen are much bigger. You don't want to mess with them."
How did you become Santa? (Oliver Boyle, third-grader at Ashton Elementary)
"I always loved Santa when I was a little boy. The guy who was Santa at the time, when I was little, noticed how much I loved Santa. He kept a special eye on me when I grew up. There came a point in time when he was ready to retire and he asked me if I would like to take over. I said, "Yeah, I'd love to." He told me it was a big job and it would last a long time. He said I could be Santa for 100 or 200 years. And I said, "Well, that's fine with me. I can do that."
How old are you? (Amelia M., first-grader at Bay Haven School of Basics Plus)
"Santa never tells his age. But there's been more than one Santa through the years. The first St. Nicholas, the bishop of Myra, was born in the mid-200s and he died in 340 A.D. He was St. Nicholas before the Catholic church started celebrating Christmas. Other Santas have come along and we all serve a long time. I'm older than most folks, but I'm not as old as they might think. But I was probably Santa when your grandparents were kids, let's say that."
How cold is the North Pole? (Sofia Arguello, first-grader at Bay Haven School of Basics Plus)
"It's very cold, below zero degrees. Santa's suit is very warm."
How can Santa go around the world in one night? (Liam McKay, first-grader at Bay Haven School of Basics Plus)
"I have supersonic reindeer and lots of helpers. I have lots of help from my elves. We also station presents around the world ahead of time. In some cases, some of Santa's helpers might deliver some of the presents. But Santa has a good system for delivering all these presents in one night."
How can I give Santa a present? (Dia Patel, first-grader at Bay Haven School of Basics Plus)
"Leave it for me on Christmas Eve, by the milk and cookies."
What do you say to your reindeer before takeoff? (Sebastian Rosa, third-grader at Ashton Elementary)
"Now Dasher, now Dancer, now Prancer and Vixen, on Comet, on Cupid, on Donder and Blitzen! It's Donder, not Donner. Donder and Blitzen are German for thunder and lightning."
Is there any popular toy Santa gets for kids? (Connor Smith, third-grader at Ashton Elementary)
"Every year there are certain toys that are really popular. This year I've gotten a lot of requests for Hoverboards. But there's a problem with the batteries now, so I don't know if we can fulfill all those requests. We always get a lot of requests for American Girl, DS3, PS4, Xbox, those are always popular. I get a lot of requests for puppies and live animals, too. Santa doesn't really like to bring live animals. It's rare that I can do it, because it gets really cold in the sleigh, it's a long ride, they get afraid and want to jump out and they poop on the presents. So I always encourage the kids to get a pet and let Santa bring something for the pet."
Do you really make all the toys or do you just buy everything? (Rylee Krzywicki, third-grader at Ashton Elementary)
"We make as many as we can, but some toys we now have to buy. The technology on some toys is just too difficult to re-create. And there's patents that we can't violate."
What does Santa do in his free time? Shelby Brann, third-grader at Ashton Elementary)
"He checks to see who's naughty or nice. Santa likes to go places and not be recognized, so he can tell who's really naughty or nice. Sometimes people recognize me when I'm out and about. But often when I'm out, people see me and don't know who I am. I like to be incognito in the offseason. Santa is pretty famous, but sometimes it's nice not to be noticed."