"The fun it brings to the children, it brings to me," says Evans, 70, of Pembroke, Va. (His summer home, he says.)
He inherited his holiday role from his father, who, two decades ago at age 900, took his son to the North Pole for Santa training, Evans says. He's chosen one of his five sons, Todd Evans, to walk in his boots one day.
"All of our grandchildren call him 'Uncle Fun,' so he's the chosen one," Evans says. "You've got to have fun. And you've got to be focused on the children, and really care for and love the children."
In addition to visiting with Santa, show-goers young and old can browse the works and wares of more than 500 artisans and merchants in seven buildings and under big-top tents at the Frederick County Fairgrounds. About 30,000 people attended last year's show, says Frances Lynch, whose family started the event in 1984. Sixty local exhibitors peddled their goods during that first, single-weekend show, she says.
Artisans from throughout the country now display at the two-weekend Maryland Christmas Show, which Sunshine Artist magazine has ranked seventh out of 200 holiday shows nationwide, Lynch says. Her family has continued to involve such nonprofit organizations as Hospice of Frederick County, Sierra Club, Habitat for Humanity and food banks in the show, she says.
The Maryland Christmas Show offers wares ranging from fine art, jewelry, pottery and quilts to handcrafted toys, baskets, Christmas ornaments, wreaths and home accessories. Exhibitors vary from weekend to weekend.
"You can find just about everything here," Lynch says.
The holiday foods pavilion features such treats as hot strudel, kettle corn, roasted nuts, gourmet sauces and dips, homemade candies, fresh breads, and Moravian sugar, gingerbread and other cookies straight from the show's ovens. There are two heated and decorated dining areas. The show also boasts live music and a variety of children's activities.
And don't forget to share Christmas wishes with Santa. Bob Evans will be in the chair he refuses to leave if there's a line, listening to gift requests and giving a gift of his own.
"I always end each visit with "I love you," he says. "Many times, my friends will turn around, wrap their arms around my neck, and say, 'I love you too, Santa.' That makes me very happy."
For more information about the Maryland Christmas Show, call 1-301-898-5466 or go to www.marylandchristmasshow.com on the Web.