Originally created 12/24/06

Santa's helpers

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There's only one Santa, but he has a lot of helpers. Click through the photos above to view some stories and photos from Augusta-area Santa surrogates:

It all started with Acne Santa.

The approximately 2-foot-tall plywood cutout affixed to the front of Bob and Cathy Kinner's Martinez home was painted seven years ago by their 9-year-old daughter.

"When she got to his face, she put so much paint on it and, just the way she did it, he looks like he has a bad case of acne, so we call him Acne Santa," Mr. Kinner said.

Mrs. Kinner painted an accompanying reindeer that year. The pair were the only items the Kinners planned to order from their Winfield Collection catalog, a magazine with designs and blueprints for wood yard art.

"But the catalogs kept coming, and we kept ordering things," Mrs. Kinner said. "They have a lot of neat stuff. It became a hobby."

Now their front yard is decorated from end to end with more than a dozen pieces of carved yard art. Each item is illuminated by its own spotlight.

As though a yard that could be mistaken for Santa's North Pole estate isn't enough to slow traffic, there are real, live waving Santa's helpers, and sometimes two little elves - all of whom usually make traffic stop.

"I had never thought about it till I saw a suit at Fat Man's," Mrs. Kinner said. "It was on a half-price sale, so I said, 'Hon, you want to do that?'"

He did, and he began hanging out with his yard work dressed as the jolly old guy.

A year later, Mrs. Kinner joined as Mrs. Claus.

Last year, their two grandchildren picked up their part-time elf gigs.

From 6 to 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays of the holiday season, the four stand near the edge of the yard and wave and yell" Merry Christmas" to passers-by and hand candy canes to those who stop.

Wearing matching red sweat suits, 6-year-old Brianna Spargo said she likes distributing the candy best, and her sister Catherine, 10, likes wearing the red-and-green hat with huge brown ears on the sides.

"It's fun," both girls said on a recent Friday night while their mother, Debra, proudly watched them work. She said she loves seeing her parents and daughters involved.

"Dad told them he was Santa's helper and they could be elves if they promised not to tell their friends that Granddad was Santa's helper," Mrs. Spargo explained.

Reach C. Samantha McKevie at (706) 823-3552 or samantha.mckevie@augustachronicle.com.


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