— -- For Fred Herzberg, playing Santa every Christmas is a 30-year "habit." Herzberg is a fixture at community holiday parties and on Sunday he decided to go to the Winterfest event in Kirkland, Washington, wearing his Santa Claus outfit, as he did last year.
But this time was different.
"I was seating in a park bench in a public place and was asked to leave," Herzberg told ABC News.
According to Herzberg, an event organizer made the request after Herzberg had been at the event for nearly 20 minutes snapping pictures with local children. He was asked to leave several times.
"I did not make a fuss, I didn't want to disillusion the children. I could have been more assertive and insistent but I decided to back off," he said. "I'm not into this for fighting with people -- this is Christmas. If I can provide a little bit of joy into someone's life, great."
Bruce Wynn, the executive director of the Kirkland Chamber of Commerce, which organized the event, told ABC News that Herzberg had been asked to go because there already was a Santa at the festival who had been hired to take photos for $10.
He also said that Santa had cleared a criminal background check.
"We had public safety as our primary concern and that's why we did what we did," Wynn said. "We are just trying to find out exactly what took place...when you get a permit they're holding you responsible."
A retired Coast Guard captain, Herzberg was surprised he was considered a threat. "They had my business card," he said.
Wynn said event organizers talked to Herzberg on Friday to get "on the same page" about what had happened.