There are mall Santas and there are parade Santas, and thousands see them. But in this region, only one Santa is seen by as many as 90,000 people every day.
The official, and only, Santa at Charlotte-Douglas International Airport, inside the security area and past the metal detectors, has a real gut. A real white beard. And his "Ho, ho, ho!" is so real kids ran toward it Thursday in the terminal to see what all the ruckus was about.
This likely most-seen Santa in the Carolinas is Rock Hill's Dave Jordan. This Santa rides a golf-cart kind of contraption covered with American flags and toys that he calls "my sleigh." He has a wife who claims her name is Nona but who answers to "Mrs. Claus." You will never have the chance to sit on the lap of a younger-hearted 64-year-old man.
And the airport hired him -- proof that a red suit, big belly and long white beard, at least in one line of work, is golden during a job interview.
His job at the airport is to do one thing: be nice.
Seems simple enough. But, no.
"Not so easy," Jordan said. "There's a lot more to Santa than dressing up. Anybody can throw on a suit. You have to feel it in here." Jordan points at his chest, to his heart.
And that is where Jordan showed Thursday that he is one great Santa.
Kids in that airport flocked to him. He refused no requests for seats on that ample lap, for hugs from any of them.
A tiny girl from California, Karis Peebles, was far from home with her mom. She spied Jordan, and he stopped all he was doing and motioned the tiny little girl over.
"You tell Santa what you want for Christmas," Jordan said.
On and on it went, over and over with little Reese Jordan from Charleston and kids from Iowa and Florida and Mississippi. And it never got old. Jordan never quit smiling. His wife, playing Mrs. Claus, never wavered, either.
"He loves being Santa," said Nona Jordan. "He doesn't play Santa. He IS Santa."
Bob Lucas of Clover, manager of maintenance and housekeeping for the airport, has more than 20 adults with developmental disabilities who do some work for him. One of those ladies told Lucas, "I believe in Santa Claus, because he is right here, and he told me if I believed in what is good, he would know."
Lucas, 21 years at the airport, said in an understatement of Jordan: "This sure is some Santa."
Jordan got his start years ago, when he took his wife to the famous Christmas lights in McAdenville, N.C., while riding in a convertible and dressed in the red suit.
Traffic stalled and kids crowded around for hugs.
"I knew then I had to give what I could to children," Jordan said.
Jordan has a Santa business called "Santa and Team." He does business functions and other stuff where "fat guy in a red suit" is part of the job. He was Santa at Christmasville in Rock Hill this year.
Yet, much of what he does is for charity.
Jordan is a part of Santa America, a volunteer force of Santas in 44 states and four foreign countries. He's Santa at hospices and hospitals. A Vietnam combat veteran, he's a regular with the Patriot Guard motorcyclists who volunteer at the funerals of soldiers killed in action. He welcomes home soldiers and does functions for their children.
The reason Jordan is known at the airport is that he started as a volunteer at the airport's branch of the United Service Organizations -- the USO -- a nonprofit dedicated to helping people in the military with morale and so much more.
By early Thursday afternoon, after starting around 4 a.m. and volunteering many hours, Jordan had greeted more than 2,000 soldiers with help from other USO volunteers. More than 10,000 soldiers had left basic training at Fort Jackson on charter buses for brief flights home from Charlotte and other airports for Christmas. Most looked not much older than kids.
One soldier on this special holiday leave stood out. Danielle Connally, 23, a private from Fayetteville, Ark., hobbling on crutches from a hip injury. She needed to get across the airport.
Santa Dave Jordan pulled that sleigh of a golf cart next to her and told her to "sit down next to ol' Santa" and drove off, telling her that her service to her country, and his, was terrific.
Connally may be 23, but no kid Thursday believed more that Santa Claus was real.
Then Jordan came back for the next kid, and the kid after that and more, all far from home. Each needed to know, and found out for sure, Santa Claus is as real as that Rock Hill belly, beard and generous spirit that Jordan pointed to under his red suit.