Santa answers questions about the big job

Sisters Olivia and Morgan Lopez explain to Santa Claus (Nevitt Ray Hargett ) what they'd each like for Christmas this year Thursday, at Sunrise Mall. Hargett has stepped into Santa's shoes each holiday season since 2006 to help spread holiday cheer to children. (Denise Cathey/The Brownsville Herald)

BROWNSVILLE — Nevitt Ray Hargett never gets tired of being Santa Claus, a role he has played at malls from here to College Station since 2006 and is currently reprising at Sunrise Mall in Brownsville.

“I’m telling you. I don’t need a million dollars to be happy,” Hargett said between visitors on a recent weekday afternoon in Brownsville. “Just seeing the smile on one child’s face and my day’s complete.”

Hargett answered questions about the queries he gets from the children who sit on his lap. A big one was this: How do you visit all those houses? The answer was simple: “I have helpers.”

So do you still make your deliveries on a sleigh?

Britzel Amaro comes in close to have a private word with Santa Claus (Nevitt Ray Hargett) before her brother arrived for his turn Thursday, during their visit to Sunrise Mall. (Denise Cathey/The Brownsville Herald)

“Depends on who’s asking,” Hargett says, specifying that with young children he simply refers to his reindeer grazing out in the pasture getting ready for the big trip. “That always does it,” he says.

And does he answer all the letters? Here he makes reference to the big pot of letters sitting next to his chair at Santa’s Village in Center Court.

“I save ‘em. I’ve got 10 years worth. The originality is just overwhelming. The things they ask for — Mom and Dad to get back together, Grandma to get well. I occasionally pray with them.”

Santa then offers this reminder: “You’ve got to remember that we’re celebrating Jesus Christ’s birthday. The gifts we offer are representative of Christ’s birthday.”

He said being able to promote Christianity is a big reason he has the job.

Olivia Marie Lopez and her sisters Morgan Rose and Emilia Rae then arrived with their mother. Olivia said she was waiting for an “amazing surprise” Christmas morning but was hoping it would include a Pokemon sword and a Super Cool Slime Kit. “Emmy can’t speak yet but she wants an Elmo dolly,” she said.

Santa Claus (Nevitt Ray Hargett) lists off all the newest toys and wishes that children have been asking him for this year Thursday, at Sunrise Mall. (Denise Cathey/The Brownsville Herald)

Hargett said he and his wife Henrietta moved to Brownsville in 1961 when he went to work for the Union Carbide plant at the Port of Brownsville as a chemical operator.

“It was there well into the 1980s. After that I went to work for National Cash Register in McAllen,” Hargett said.

According to a biography provided by his wife, Hargett served in the U.S. Navy in Alaska, Japan and Washington D.C. After Union Carbide and NCR, he worked for Xerox Copier, Valley Beverage, was a hunting guide in Mexico and manager of a ranch in San Manuel.

“He barbecued for years and everyone knows him for his ‘Nevitt’s Little Pigs’ … In his later years, he has become a professional Santa. He serves at First Baptist Church in Edinburg. … Nevitt is a father/step father to five children, and a grandfather of 12, great-grandfather of eight and a wonderful husband. Family is very important to Nevitt. As he has said so many times ‘you don’t have to be blood to be kin.’” Henrietta wrote.

Santa Claus (Nevitt Ray Hargett) wraps an arm around an upset little boy, Adriel Amaro, as his older and more experienced sister Britzel holds his hand during their photo with Santa Thursday, at Sunrise Mall. (Denise Cathey/The Brownsville Herald)

Hargett said he started out as a professional Santa at Post Oak Mall in College Station in 2006. He said he works with children at the Joe B. Evins Detention Center in Edinburg.

He quickly hands out his business card and says he answers the phone, “North Pole Speaking.”

glong@brownsvilleherald.com