John Bonnet's address isn't the North Pole - but it should be.
Three times a year, the former resident of Bloomfield suits up as Santa Claus and has assumed the role since the inception of the town's tradition in 1973.
"Being Santa is like one of my great blessings," said Bonnet, who lived in Bloomfield for 37 years. "To have kids come and you watch their eyes light up and see the excitement in their faces - all of a sudden, it becomes contagious."
Bonnet, a 70-year-old Florham Park resident, has a career in selling candy for Orchard Sweet Foods, a jelly bean and fruit candy company sold at stores like Wal-Mart. But he has returned to Bloomfield each year as Santa ever since he was approached by then-town councilman John Crecco nearly four decades ago. Crecco, who served as mayor of Bloomfield twice, wanted his foundation to sponsor a center where children could get their picture taken with Santa. A room in the Civic Center was established for the Santa sit-down and has been used every year.
"About four years (later), the Recreation Department saw this was a successful thing and took it over," Bonnet recalled.
Bonnet, who has two sons and five grandchildren of his own, has seen generations of families in his many years playing Santa. About three years ago, he received a surprise gift from a young woman who had brought her three-year-old child to visit Bonnet dressed as Santa.
"She said, 'I have a present for you, Santa,'" he recalled. "She gave me a collage of pictures when she was (young) on my lap. And now she was doing the same thing with her kid."
Other traditions, however, have been reinvented. In the past, Bonnet made his annual entrance as Santa by arriving at Town Hall via flashing firetrucks and whistling police cars. Now, he kicks off the holiday season in a more dramatic way.
The crowd was in awe at Monday night's tree lighting when Santa appeared on the roof of Town Hall, and then - a split second later - bursted through the front doors to greet the cheering crowd.
The secret to this mystifying disappearing act?
"Those are two different people," Bonnet said with a chuckle. "They'd never get me to run around the roof with 20-mile-per-hour winds blowing."
Bonnet returns as Santa this Saturday from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Recreation Department's annual holiday party. And, as the last leg of this year's Santa tour, Bonnet and four others will dress up as Kriss Kringle to dole out gifts to less fortunate families on Dec. 23. as part of the Youth Bureau's toy drive.
"It's almost a selfish thing," said Bonnet, "because I do get a good kick out of (being Santa)."