vanessa-newVanessa Remmers covers Stafford County government and schools for and The Free Lance-Star.

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Ever wondered what it takes to be Santa and Mrs. Claus?

When Dale and Trish Parris go out to eat at any time of the year, they rarely get to enjoy their hot food.

They may first be spotted in a red Toyota pickup with a “Santa C” license plate and a Christmas decal on the back. Or a child may point out the “SC” embroidered on Dale’s collar, the “HoHoHo” button on the back pocket of his pants or one of his many tacky Santa shirts. Dale, 63, with a real beard white as snow and a belly that you could say shakes like a bowl full of jelly, admits he actually looks for these interruptions through out the year.

He’ll wink and smile, and hand out a sticker that says, “I Met Santa.”

The Stafford County couple just finished their 17th year being Santa and Mrs. Claus. Ask kids and adults in the area, and they’ll say this couple is one of the best. “Everybody knows them as Santa Claus,” said daughter Courtney Parris, 24, who now lives in Myrtle Beach, S.C. They also have another daughter and two grandchildren.

But just because Christmas has passed on the calendar doesn’t mean that the Parrises get a break from the attention. For them and many other “Brothers in Red,” being Santa is a way of life. “A lot of people think it’s just a character—you throw on a suit, talk to some kids and go home,” said Trish, 55. “But they live it 365 days a year.”

For the rest of this story and to learn what the Clauses do for the rest of the year, check tomorrow’s Free Lance-Star.