Santa Claus was a long way from home when he visited McDuffie County earlier this month.
The widely-adored North Pole resident took some time from his busy schedule to visit with area children at the Tree of Love lighting ceremony and at the Festival Off Main Street.
Jason B. Smith
He said he loves interacting with children and their families -- something he got to do a lot of in McDuffie County this year -- but sometimes he has a hard time keeping up with all of the different wish lists. During his many years of gift giving, he said he's seen a wide range of requests, and he's seen different kinds of toys come and go.
"It's gone from Barbie dolls to Barbie dolls with electronics hooked up to them to all kinds of computer games now. That's more hi-tech stuff versus what I used to give, like caps and pistols, cowboy suits, and you don't have many of them asking for that stuff anymore," he said. "They don't have many wooden toys like they used too -- it's usually something motorized these days."
Over the years, he said he's gotten some requests for some very peculiar gifts, including a donkey, horses, and even four-wheelers.
But Santa said he has an even tougher time telling kids what to do if they don't have a chimney for him to come down.
"I sometimes just tell them to leave the front or back door open," he said. "And it still amazes me that kids still leave me milk and cookies under the tree. ...They know all about that."
As far as the reindeer go, Santa said that he feeds them a steady diet of lichen during the year to keep up their strength and so that they're ready to go Christmas Eve.
And as for Rudolph, his bright and shiny nose isn't just a myth; it's the truth.
"It's as bright as the North Star," said Santa.
For the next week or so, Santa said he and his elves will be hard at work getting all the toys ready. Despite all the hard work he puts into getting all the good boys and girls the things on their lists, he said it's all worth it.
"I enjoy families and their children getting together, singing Christmas carols -- the meaning of Christmas," he said.