• 36°

Gautier man spreads Christmas cheer as waving Santa

South Mississippi kids who might be intimidated by a mall Santa can visit the jolly old elf at his home in Gautier.

For the seventh year in a row, registered nurse Daryl Ladnier is dressing up in a familiar fur-lined red suit and waving at cars as they pass his home in the Hickory Hill subdivision.

With festive music echoing in a sea of Christmas lights, Ladnier poses for photos with those who stop, and every child gets a candy cane after telling Santa their wish list.

“I enjoy watching the kids faces light up when they see me,” Ladnier said. “To see the happiness something this simple brings is just unreal.”

Ladnier says a homey environment is sometimes more comfortable for children who are leery of Ole Saint Nick.

“When the parents pass by and say’’Oh, look, there’s Santa,’” Ladnier said. “It’s a surprise to the kids. And that’s the way it should be.”

Siblings Will, Caroline and Elizabeth Frye stopped to tell Santa what they’d like to find on Christmas morning.

“I want a Battleship game and a Super Mario Brothers game,” 7-year-old Will said.

Caroline, 4, told Santa that she hoped for a Baby Alive doll and Elizabeth, 3, asked for a Baby Chew-Chew doll.

Their parents, Chuck and Kelly Frye, said dropping by Santa’s home is more convenient than going to the mall.

“Our kids were very comfortable here,” Kelly Frye said as she held 10-month-old Griffin. “They warmed right up to him, and we enjoyed it.”

Ladnier’s wife, Judy, and sons Chris, 19, and Nick, 21, said they love to see him dress up and spread Christmas cheer.

“After a couple of years, it’s not embarrassing anymore,” Chris Ladnier said with a laugh.