Santa is getting ready for his annual trip to the Sonoma Plaza. He arrives at 5:30 p.m. today, not on his usual sleigh, but on an antique fire engine.

Since Santa is very busy, the Index-Tribune chatted with a spokesman for the Jolly Elf, Roger Rhoten, who has assisted Santa on numerous occasions, is a trusted confidant and, in the right light, possesses a striking resemblance to the man in red.

Rhoten said Santa’s looking forward to his trek to Sonoma. “It’s quite an event,” he said. “Arriving on the fire truck and asking the children to help him light the tree on City Hall. Arriving by fire truck is the next best thing to his sleigh.”

“He loves to see the smiles on all their faces,” Rhoten added.

Santa tries to meet all the children who come out to see him, and this year, after he’s finished on the Plaza, he’ll go across the street to the Sebastiani Theatre where he’ll be able to chat a little more with the boys and girls.

“He loves to hear what their wishes are. Santa can’t always get each child what they want,” he said. “But he tries the best he can.”

Santa confided in Rhoten that the greatest reward is to see the smiling faces of the children on Christmas morning. “It puts a little excitement in his life. He loves to go out and spread joy and happiness.”

Santa enjoys the season of giving because everyone gives.

While Christmas is still two-and-a-half weeks out, Santa has numerous stops to make before he loads up his sleigh and sets out for his trek around the world with his reindeer on Christmas Eve.

“The reindeer are ready to go,” he said. “Santa says they love their trip all over the world.”

“Santa is completely worn out by the time he’s done,” Rhoten added. “But he’s welcomed back to the North Pole by Mrs. Claus, who has a fire blazing in the fireplace.”

After getting some much needed sleep, Santa gets up for a robust meal. “It takes him a while to work up his appetite as he snacks on cookies and milk left out for his arrival by children all over the world.”

But, Rhoten said, Santa loves to come to Sonoma.

“He loves to come here because it’s such a beautiful place, with friendly people. And he says City Hall is so beautiful when the tree is lit.”

The festivities start at 5 p.m. In addition to Santa’s arrival, the Soroptimists will be offering complimentary hot cocoa, and the Sonoma Conservatory of Dance will be putting on a performance.