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Saturday, Nov 24 2012 12:05 AM

It's a Guy Thing: Santa Claus

Compiled by Tyler Stevens

You can find him throughout Bakersfield in December in malls, schools, hospitals, charity events and even on street corners or in front of department stores. He's Santa Claus. Here are four locals who help share the Christmas spirit each year as Jolly Old Saint Nicholas.

Randy Boggs

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Randy Boggs, Santa Claus

Chuck Neukom, Santa Claus

John Fowler, Santa Claus

Scott O’Neil, Santa Claus

Boggs, who is Santa in the Bakersfield Christmas Parade, has been ho-ho-hoing for the last 11 years.

How long have you been Santa Claus?

I became Santa after our "Downtown Santa" -- Edwin Goodwin -- passed away. I have been representing Santa and the spirit of Christmas for the past 11 years. I come from the North Pole every year at the beginning of December and participate in children's programs throughout the month.

What is the most memorable gift request a child has asked you for?

Every child has a special gift that they want for Christmas. It has been everything from a horse to world peace. I think the most memorable request was from a young girl who wanted her dad to come home from his tour of duty in Iraq and spend Christmas with her and her mom. She knew he had to go, she just wanted him home for Christmas.

What is most enjoyable about being Santa?

The most enjoyable thing about representing Santa is the children. The innocence and true belief from a child is awe-inspiring. There is no agenda, no ulterior motive, no design, just the desire to see and speak with Santa and tell him what they want for Christmas. They will talk about mom and dad, brothers and sisters, and what they want for Christmas. I very much enjoy making the children happy. I try to reinforce the spirit of Christmas for the children.

Where can people find you this holiday season?

During the holiday season, Santa can be found in many places. I will be in the Bakersfield Christmas Parade this year. I will be attending many of the nonprofit organization's Christmas gatherings -- Society for Disabled Children, Muscular Dystrophy Association and Fraternal Order of Eagles, just to name a few.

What do you like most about the holidays?

The holiday season seems to bring out the giving spirit and goodness in people. If you take a real close look at the people of Bakersfield and Kern County, you will see a very selfless and giving community. I have observed, during my trips south, that this community is always willing to help those less fortunate and in need, especially during the holiday season.

Charles Neukom

Neukom performs as a clown 11 months out of the year but said being Santa on the 12th month is "my calling." He combines the two jobs together -- performing magic and making balloon animals as Santa.

How long have you been Santa Claus?

As a professional clown -- Chuck OH! -- I attended my annual clown convention about five years ago, and came in contact with a vendor who was a Santa and sold Santa suits. He suggested that it complements a clown business since December is one of my slower months. I bought the suit and the rest is history. Since then, I came in contact with fellow clown Claydoh, and we are Santas at the Bakersfield's Winter Playground from Thanksgiving to Christmas. We skate and interact with all the kids, moms, dads and grandparents and take as many pictures as they want. It is great fun, and since the temperature is 50 degrees, it's a great place to wear a Santa suit.

What is the most memorable gift request a child has asked you for?

The little 5-year-old girl who only wanted mom and dad to be together for Christmas. All I could say was, "Yes," and went I home that night and prayed that it would come true.

What is most enjoyable about being Santa?

Being a clown most of the year, I find being Santa a revered position. All kids of all ages love Santa. After all, he is a patron saint of children. As a clown, I have to deal with the collateral issues of Stephen King and Hollywood, and the depiction of scary clowns. I fight that perception one kid or adult at a time, and have turned more than one kid or adult over from a scare to a hug at the end of a performance. It is a blessed thing to be a saint for 30 days out of the year.

Where can people find you this holiday season?

See me at the Winter Playground. It is the Rockefeller Plaza of Bakersfield. Skating, snow play, hot chocolate and pictures with a skating Santa -- what more do you need to get into the holiday spirit? I also advertise in the The Bakersfield Californian for home visits, company parties and day cares.

What do you like most about the holidays?

Joy, smiles and unconditional giving from little girls or boys who want love, and moms and dads together. It might be trite, but it is about family.

John Fowler

This school crossing guard started by playing Kris Kringle in theater in "The Miracle in 34th Street," and now can be found at various functions throughout town.

How long have you been Santa?

This will be my eighth Christmas in the red suit. I began my Santa career on stage at The Spotlight Theatre as Kris Kringle in "The Miracle in 34th Street." I began to receive requests for home visits, and it just built from there.

What was the most memorable gift request a child has asked you for?

Amidst the usual requests for jewelry, Xboxes and PlayStations, I remember a little boy who wanted me to be sure that his sister got the doll she wanted. He was very earnest. He even said he would give up his present so she could get hers.

And one evening in November a couple of years ago, my wife and I went out to dinner at a local eatery. I was wearing Levi's with my red suspenders and my red cap. As we walked into the restaurant, it got real quiet. We ordered

our food and sat down to eat. Across the room I saw a little boy peeking over at me. He finally came over and stood by me and told me his Christmas wish. He and his family left soon thereafter. As they walked out the door, the family in the next booth began laughing. The man in the group told me that when that little boy saw me get out of the car, he told everyone in the place to be quiet because "Santa's coming in." He was precious.

What is most enjoyable about being Santa?

Nearly everyone buys into the idea of Santa, even those who are the scoffers. I really like to see how people turn their attention toward kindness.

Where can people find you this holiday season?

I will be available for home visits, office parties and corporate events all through the season.

What do you like most about the holidays?

The fact that people take time for each other, despite the frantic nature of the holidays.

Scott O'Neil

O'Neil and his wife perform each year as Mr. and Mrs. Clause. You can find him on the streets of Bakersfield this December pushing a sleigh on his Harley-Davidson.

How long have you been Santa Claus?

This is my forth year. Back in September 2009, Jim and Debbie Harmon -- cofounders of the Bakersfield Toy Run and Can Food Drive for the Salvation Army -- asked me and my wife, Katie, to become Santa and Mrs. Claus.

What was the most memorable gift request a child has asked you for?

Last December, while I was playing Santa in the garage for a good friend, a 7-year-old girl sat down on my knee. Without me asking, she said in a clear loud voice, "Santa! I want my daddy home from the Army!"

Her mother was taking pictures and overheard her request. Mom said, "He's in Afghanistan and not due back until this summer." I told her that her daddy has a job to do, but Santa's going to send her a new swim suit this summer and your daddy will come with it. Her eyes got big and she smiled from ear-to-ear. She jumped off my knee and told her mother in that same loud voice, "Santa's giving me a new swim suit!" I got up and gave her a candy cane and gave mom a big hug, turned to sit down and wiped the tears from my eyes. She ran back and gave me a hug and whispered, "Do you think you could give me a Barbie, too?"

What is most enjoyable about being Santa?

I think all Santa's helpers will tell you the children make the job worth all the efforts. But when I'm out and about pulling my sleigh behind my Harley-Davidson, it's the adults in their cars or walking along the sidewalks that bring to me a big smile. They wave, honk their horns or just give me a big thumbs up along with a warm smile. Even in these hard times, the sight of Santa rolling down the street brings back the Spirit of Christmas, if for just a brief moment.

Where can people find you this holiday season?

Just keep your eyes open for a big, silver Harley-Davidson pulling a sleigh full of toys around the streets of Bakersfield. But if you can, do Santa a favor: Let your passengers take the pictures.

What do you like most about the holidays?

It's the reason for the season. Let's not forget that we are celebrating Christ's birthday. It's that time when we give from the heart to family and friends. But we should never forget those we don't know, and give to your favorite charities. I love Christmas in Bakersfield because of the big hearts that live here. This community keeps giving past the holidays, 365 days of the year.

What do you do when your not playing Santa?

I'm retired, so I have the time to pay back all of my blessings. I'm part of the Masonic family, and that alone can keep a man very busy. My second passion is motorcycling. Through this, I have the opportunity to participate in the fight against cancer, worked for Muscular Dystrophy Association and the Shriners Hospitals for Children. I've also been able to ride with the Patriot Guard Riders, American Legion Riders, Harley Owners Group, and many other motorcycle clubs and groups here in Bakersfield that escort for new military recruits leaving for boot camp, and "welcome home" rides at the airport for returning veterans. Then there are the funerals of our fallen heroes.

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