Three decades of festive fun for Santa stalwart Kevin Hickey
He's a community and sporting stalwart, but for the past three decades Kevin Hickey has been better known to generations of South Cantabrians as Santa Claus.
Hickey suited up and donned the familiar white beard to take a starring role at Timaru's PrimePort Christmas Parade on Saturday, delighting the thousands of people who lined Stafford St in the hopes of catching a glimpse of Father Christmas.
It was a job Hickey was very familiar with, having acted as Santa at events around the region for 28 years.
"It's just the joy on the kids' faces, that's really why you do it," he said.
His jolly alter-ego first made an appearance in 1992, at a parade in Temuka.
Since then Hickey has played the part at kindergartens, parades, and businesses around the region, attending up to 30 functions a year.
He has seen plenty of changes in the Santa business throughout the years.
The biggest differences were around health and safety.
"The PC is really bad now," he said.
"There's not many young Santas coming through because of the health and safety, it's a shame."
Hickey had no plans to hang up the beard any time soon.
"I enjoy what I'm doing, but it won't last forever."
He has three Santa suits, including one from Denmark and one from the United States.
The suit from the US was "thick as" because Christmas occurred during winter there, so his mother-in-law had made him another one that was less heavy, he said.
That came in handy during Saturday's parade, with temperatures hitting 25 degrees in Timaru.
"If you want to lose weight don't worry about Jenny Craig, just wear that suit for a few hours," he said with a laugh.
He praised the strong turnout at this year's parade, which parade organiser Bec Brookland said was at least on par with previous years.
Many people camped out hours before the parade started to claim the best viewing spots on Stafford St.
"As usual Santa was the biggest hit," Brookland said.
"It all went swimmingly."
More than 300 children and 31 floats took part in the parade, she said.
The number of floats was "slightly down" on previous years, which Brookland attributed to a date change.
"We will return to the first weekend of December next year.
"It's a community-based event, and it relies on community support."
The parade kicked off at 2pm at the top of Stafford St, with participants making their way down the Port Loop Rd to finish at Caroline Bay.
Christmas favourites such as elves, reindeer and angels were joined by less traditional characters, such as Captain America and Buzz Lightyear.
"It was a perfect day," Brookland said.
It will be Fairlie and Pleasant Point's turn to join in the festivities this week, with their Christmas parades taking place on Friday night.
Pleasant Point's parade is traditionally unconventional. Last year's floats included references to ponytail-pulling PM John Key, controversial cricketer Chris Cairns, and dodgy waterways.
The Fairlie parade starts at 5.30pm and the Pleasant Point parade is from 6.30pm.