Every December, 65-year-old Ron Zeno goes on a diet. He wants to lose five pounds so he can fit into his red Santa suit comfortably.
“Other Santas stuff pillows in the suit, but not me,” he jokes.
Zeno is a veteran in this St. Nicholas business. For the past 20 years, he’s served as the resident Santa at Children’s Fairyland,an amusement park in Oakland, California. And, as you might imagine, he’s a natural.
A week before Christmas, Zeno’s holiday grotto, which smells of holiday spices and has two child-sized angels — one black, one white — carved on the entrance door, is alive with kids eager to see their favorite red-suited guy. Two blond kids throw their arms around him and whisper they’d like a truck this year. A serious five-year-old girl with bowl-cut bangs whispers what she wants.
“A big dolly?” he asks.
“A big D-O-G-G-Y,” she clarifies.
But Zeno isn’t a standard Santa …