Conway notebook | The REAL Santa speaks

You probably would not guess it, but Santa Claus – like so many other international celebrities – is somewhat shy of the press.

Undeterred, though, and after a year of intense negotiations, The Sun News secured an exclusive interview with the REAL Santa Claus who will be in downtown Conway the next three Thursday evenings.

As might be expected of someone who has adapted to trends for several hundred years, today’s Santa is somewhat of a geek and uses electronics to help him keep up with an increasing number of children around the modern world.

“I’ve got an iPhone now,” Santa said. “I can go to my apps and see who is naughty and who is nice.”

Santa said that naughtiness and niceties automatically appear on his screen as if by magic from some all-seeing Santa eye and the Shelf Elfs who sit in homes helping with the tabulation.

Additionally, he can now scan the millions of letters he gets each year, and from the scans produce a computerized database so he’s sure he has enough of each thing to fill all the requests for it.

He said kids this year seem to be asking for a game whose name he couldn’t remember – he’s not a young man so give him a break – but that in recent years iPhones and iPads seem to be coveted by children age 7 and up.

Santa said the number of elves worldwide and at his North Pole headquarters is a closely-guarded Christmas secret, but noted they’re kept busy year round gathering and manufacturing gifts to be handed out that one special night.

He at long last cleared up how he seems to be in so many places at the same time. For instance, it would be possible for a hopeful child to sit on his lap at Fourth Avenue and Laurel Street, drive to Coastal Grand Mall and plop right onto another Santa lap that sits as though it’s been there for hours. Santa said those other Santas are known in the Christmas industry as Santa Helpers, and being in a Helper’s lap is almost as good as that of the real McCoy.

“If (a child) gets a Helper,” the jolly fat guy said, “he’s still connected to Santa.”

More of that magic, no doubt.

Yes, kids ask all the time if they can pull his beard, and he tells them sure, as long as he can tug as hard on their hair.

Mommies and daddies, though, may not be so polite.

He recalls one mother walking up and yanking at his beard without asking first.

“I yelled ‘Ouch!’,” he said, “and she was mortified.”

Santa says the trick to being available for lap-sitting is to know how to treat children. Some are shy and not eager to approach the guy in the red suit.

“If you give me enough time and the child is patient enough,” he said, “I can get them to come up.”

Those who would like to test his acumen or just put in a good word for under the tree stuff can connect with the REAL Santa beginning at 6 p.m. on the designated corner. There will be other things to do downtown those nights – the official city tree lighting, carriage rides and the like.

But if you want to be Santa, the biggest elf of all said, “You have to love children.”

The spirit of sharing

North Conway Baptist Church wants to share the Christmas experience with the community and has developed Lights, Christmas, Music to do it.

From 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Dec. 16, the church will close off Sessions Street between Sixteenth and Seventeenth avenues and present a choir concert and Christmas lights display. Food and beverages will also be given away at the event.

The city has agreed for the Sessions Street closure for the time of sharing.