In tough econ­omy, San­tas are also suf­fer­ing

The Pak Banker - - International3 -

ST. PETERS­BURG: Craig McTav­ish - a.k.a. Santa - has the beard. He has the belly. He even has a few tricks up his sleeve, like pulling up to par­ties on his Har­ley-Davidson in full Kris Kringle garb.

But there's one thing he doesn't have: work.

For free­lance San­tas, this hol­i­day sea­son has been more "no, no, no," than "ho, ho, ho." Book­ings have de­clined as pay­ing $125 an hour for Santa to visit a hol­i­day party has be­come an un­af­ford­able lux­ury. It's the sec­ond year of de­clin­ing par­ties and events, San­tas say.

"This year has been a bust as far as mak­ing any money," said McTav­ish, a re­tired fire­fighter who co-owns a land­scap­ing busi­ness with his son. "I've booked noth­ing. Usu­ally there's al­ways some­thing for Christ­mas Eve, but I don't even have that."

In ad­di­tion to know­ing which chil­dren have been bad or good, the mod­ern-day Santa also hears which fam­i­lies don't have enough money for presents. "You can see the down­turn from the chair," said Ni­cholas Trolli, the pres­i­dent of the Amal­ga­mated Or­der of Real Bearded San­tas - a 1,700mem­ber so­cial group the Bos­ton Her­ald once dubbed "The Nation's Premier Fra­ter­nity of A-List San­tas."

Trolli lives in Sara­sota, Fla., but trav­els around the coun­try as a hired Santa. -Ap

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