Jerry Henderson looks an awful lot like Santa Claus.
He purposely goes after the St. Nick look, bleaching his flowing beard, eyebrows and long hair to a radiant, snowy white. When he's out in public, he said, kids often flock to him and parents ask for photos.
And it was that kind of attention that got him ejected from Six Flags over Texas last weekend, he told InsideEdition.com. He’s still smarting over that, he says, because he and his wife spend every weekend at the amusement park and now they can’t go back.
Five security guards approached him Saturday, and asked if he worked for the park, Henderson said. When he said no, he was told he would have to leave because he “looked too much like Santa Claus,” Henderson said.
He had just posed for a photo with a group of children who came running up to him, he said, and he had given them candy canes.
He does this a lot. “If I can bring a smile to a child’s face, that’s all that matters,” he said. He also has a Santa suit, which he wears to community events and to neighbors’ homes, where he has been known to hand out presents - secretly passed to him by parents – to awestruck children.
Henderson said Six Flags personnel told him he couldn’t walk around the park in a costume. But he says he wasn’t wearing his Santa suit, just a red vest, jeans, a white shirt and a Santa hat.
He claims a security worker told him that he and his wife could come back to the park if he shaved his beard.
"I said, '‘I’m not shaving my beard for Six Flags or nobody.'"
“We apologize that Mr. Henderson was inconvenienced, but the safety of our guests is always our highest priority," the park said in a statement. "We cannot knowingly allow individuals who are not approved by the park to interact with small children in this capacity.
“Mr Henderson was handing out candy to our younger guests and was dressed up as Santa which is in violation of our No Costume policy. When asked to change he refused and at that point was asked to leave.”
Henderson and his wife, both 56, say they’ve been coming to the park in holiday gear for three years, but this is the first time they’ve ever been asked to leave.
“We go out there to walk around the park and get our exercise,” he said. “I like to ride the train. Everybody knows who we are. We’re there every weekend.”
He says he hasn’t heard from anyone at Six Flags since the incident. He’s not sure what kind of reaction he wants from the amusement corporation.
Henderson has been grooming his Santa appearance since 1997. “This is me. This is the way I look.”
More than anything, he just wants to go back to the park in his Santa hat. “This is what I do this for all year long,” he said. “If I can make a child happy... it makes all my suffering worth it,” he said.
Plus, he misses the rides.
"I'd really like to go back out there and ride the train some more,” he said.