Let me warn you – this column is rated PG13. It is not risky; it’s just not appropriate for the younger Farragut Insider fans. I’m writing about Santa Bob, who you might recognize from his off-season gig at Weigel’s on Campbell Station Road.
Santa Bob Higginbotham is a staple of Farragut’s Celebrate the Season, which is Thursday, December 2. He’s not the biggest Santa, and he doesn’t (naturally) have a flowing white beard. But there are things that are more important if you’re going to pose for photos with kids, many of whom are screaming like they’re on fire: patience and a great sense of humor.
Since many of you have collected photos of Bob (with your kids) over the years, I thought you might like to get to know him better. There is a lot to be enjoyed.
He was born in Nitro, West Virginia. The city was built to supply gunpowder during World War I, but since it was completed just before the war ended, it had to find another purpose. After graduating from high school, Bob started (and left) college before enlisting in 1967. He served in the military for a year before receiving orders for Vietnam.
Because he showed an aptitude for mechanics, Bob was trained to repair helicopters, and he eventually became a team leader on a “Huey” helicopter. He also learned to fly. After serving his sentence in Vietnam, he wanted to go to Germany, but when he learned that the mission was longer than his time, he chose to return to Vietnam. He survived two helicopter crashes while on duty.
Bob returned to Nitro and began a career in a chemical plant. He retired after 32 years. Eventually, he decided to join his parents and sister in eastern Tennessee. It was not his idea to move, he said, but the idea of ââhis wife, Arleen Higginbotham. (Arleen works for the Farragut Parks & Rec department, so I understand it’s just easier to do what Arleen wants.)
The Higginbothams moved to the Farragut area in 2005, where Bob enjoyed his retirement until Arleen told him to return to work. It was then that he accepted the position at Weigel’s, which he likes very much.
âI just like getting up in the morning and seeing people come in,â he says.
It was also Arleen who “suggested” him to become Santa Bob. He didn’t bother at all, given that he and Arleen dressed up as Santa Claus and an elf to deliver Christmas presents to their church in West Virginia.
In case you didn’t know, Bob is a pretty laid back guy. He’s happy to join the Parks and Recreation department whenever he needs it, and you may have seen him grilling at the Bob Watt Youth Fishing Rodeo or picking up tickets to the Shamrock Ball. But he especially likes to don the red suit.
âThe kids are great. They jump on your knees and tell you the funniest things. They are so sincere. They tell me things that bring tears to my eyes, âhe says. “I like to do it.”
Celebrate the season from 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Thursday, December 2 at the Farragut Community Center (11408, promenade du center municipal). The photos of Santa Claus are from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. The event is free.
The Town of Farragut Marketing and Public Relations Coordinator, Wendy Smith, is your trusted source for Farragut.