Special Assignment: Santa Claus, Georgia

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December 20, 2006

SANTA CLAUS, Ga.---What's in a name?

Take a drive through any neighborhood and you'll see the man in red. He's on lawns and porches and even inside stores.

But one city is not only decorated with Santas...it's named after him.

News 12's Kate Tillotson traveled southeast to the small city of Santa Claus, Georgia.

If you're not paying attention, you might just miss the sign.

In southeast Georgia off US Highway 1, it's a city so small, but so full of spirit.

For resident James O'Day, it's his south pole.

"It's nice and quiet and peaceful."

His wife Waunita is city clerk. She works just one day a week at city hall.

"Can't get anyone else to take the job, or I'd retire," she laughed.

Santa Claus, Georgia...population 200.

It began not with presents or parties, but with four pecan trees...and a farmer seeking a catchy name to lure business off the busy highway.

"Well, somebody's got an imagination around here. You come down south and you find out this is the headquarters for Santa Claus. It don't sound right," laughed resident John Puryear.

But it sure looks right. In fact, most everything here is named after you know who.

It's a quiet community most months...but not December.

Waunita has received hundreds of envelopes to stamp with the city logo for Christmas. Last year, she postmarked nearly 1000 of them.

Life in Santa Claus is slow-moving. Most folks are retired. Property taxes are just $50 a year.

"Years go by and we won't have anybody complain about anything," Waunita said.

That's something most cities might call a Christmas miracle.

And who knows...in this city, the holiday spirit may just hang in the air a little longer.

On Christmas Eve, the streets of Santa Claus will be lined with candles.

If you're interested in taking the trip, Santa Claus is roughly 100 miles from here, just off of Highway 1 South, near Vidalia.