Steve Hadala jokes that he has to use all of his fingers when he waves back to drivers who cut him off on the highway.

“I have to say Merry Christmas,” he says with a jolly grin.

Santa look-alikes must be on their best behavior all year long.

The St. Petersburg resident who has been a resident since 1986 has only been playing the role of Santa for the last three years. A friend signed him up for Santa School and he earned his Associates Degree in SantaClausology.

“If it made absolutely nothing I’d still do it just for the joy of it,” he said.

Santa Steve, as he’s known, does events weekly around Pinellas County. He learned how to be in character from his time in Santa School. The lessons learned there help Santas deal with potential trouble spots and issues that could arise from kids dealing with turbulent home lives.

“Absolutely, Santa is a good student,” he said holding his diploma. “He doesn’t goof off in class with the student next to him, ever.”

Steve has grown out his beard to be a few inches thick. He hopes that his jolly spirit reaches kids in need during the Christmas season. He is a member of the Palm Tree Santa group.

His next event is at the St. Pete Sundial on Saturday evening from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.

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