FREE PHOTOS: Much-loved Bay Santa has time to give all kids
WHEN Bronco Jensen suits up as the Pialba Place Santa each year, it's not just a job, it's a passion.
The Hervey Bay entertainer's face is well-known around the traps for his role as a Fraser Island Tour Bus driver for about 28 years, MC at the Fraser Coast Show, Goomeri pumpkin festival, Mary Poppins Festival, Seafood Festival and his own Tun of Fun entertainment business.
But for the past nine years, his Santa character is the one act that always brings a smile to his face, the faces of the children he greets, and even parents, grandparents and a group of about seven pole dancers that return each year without fail for their annual Santa photo.
His big point of difference to any other shopping centre Santa, Mr Jensen says, is that he takes however much time is needed to make the children feel comfortable and at ease using some quick-witted humour and good old Santa charm.
"It's probably one of the most pleasurable Santa experiences they will get anywhere because I'm an entertainer, not just someone who gets dressed up for two weeks of the year … I know how to treat people and I know how to treat the kids," Mr Jensen said.
"If you go to most shopping centre it's about money, money, money and the kids are screaming and they just want them in and out for the photo, but at Pialba Place we take our time."
With a background in entertaining for children with disabilities and behavioural issues, Mr Jensen said the colouring in table next to the Santa chair was also important.
"Sometimes the whole Santa setting is too much sensory overload for the kids so we have a colouring in table so they can be distracted, and I'll often go and kneel beside them and mum and dad can get a photo with Santa, without the kids panicking.
"They often see Santa on TV but when they are confronted with Santa and it's real it's a whole different emotion."
The popularity of the Pialba Place Santa is clear on his Santa Fraser Coast Facebook Page, with hundreds of comments that all read the same; "best Santa ever".
One Hervey Bay mum was impressed with the way Santa made her children feel at ease.
"My son absolutely loved Santa, but my little girl wasn't sure. But Santa was amazing," she commented.
"We went and coloured in and she warmed up to him walking up closer each time and coming back to me.
"Spent about 30 minutes there and was great … definitely recommend for kids that are unsure."
Santa will be making regular appearances for free photos at Pialba Place over the next month, as well as hosting a mini Santa Concert in front of the playground on December 14.
He will be Available for photos from 10am to 2pm from Saturday, December 14 to Tuesday, December 20.
Then from 10am to 3pm until December 24.
"On the first day (December 14) I'll be doing a mini Santa Concert where I will sing around five Christmas songs from 10am.
"As far as I am aware this is the only venue anywhere where Santa actually sings for the children."
Pialba Place is also hosting a Best Santa Photo competition and Mr Jensen says he's up for some fun.
"I'm not just a Santa that sits on the chair. I like to have some fun with the photos so just let me know what you want me to do."
Keep up-to-date with Santa's movements on the Santa Fraser Coast Facebook page.