WASHINGTON – A man who looks like Santa Claus says he was told to leave Disney World because he was distracting kids and guests at the Florida theme park.
Thomas Tolbert has portrayed Santa for years and fits the part, with his thick white beard and hair. But he tells WKMG-TV in Orlando he didn’t dress up in a Santa suit while on vacation at Disney World.
Some children asked him to take a picture with them during the last day of his recent vacation, and he obliged. When a Disney representative saw him, Tolbert was asked to move on.
“He said, ‘You can’t be portraying Santa,'” Tolbert told the Florida station.
Tolbert acknowledges he often wears clothing with a holiday feel, and he changed his clothes after the warning.
But he says kids still kept coming up to him.
In a statement, Disney spokesperson Kathleen Prihoda told WKMG, “The guest was asked to change his attire because it was disruptive to our operations and confusing to our other guests, particularly children who asked to take photos with him. He was not asked to leave, instead, we tried to work with him so that he could continue his visit.”
Tolbert says Disney has given him special passes for his next trip, but he’s concerned he’ll face similar issues the next time Santa comes to town.