Friday November 30, 2012 | 02:45 PM

WASHINGTON – Don’t tell the kids, but when Santa arrives in the nation’s capital this season he won’t be flying in from the North Pole.

He’ll be coming from Western Maine.

Beginning Dec. 6, children who visit the Christmas displays in President’s Park next to the White House will see Santa – a.k.a. Rob Hoffman of Rangeley – in his workshop making toys with his elves.

The folks who play Santa typically fall into two categories: those with real white beards and those without. Hoffman, a retired airline pilot, falls into the first group.

“I retired about 10 years ago and I stopped shaving. And the beard came out white,” Hoffman said by phone on Friday while taking a break from firewood duties (no elves in Rangeley, apparently). “Everybody said, ‘Rob, you ought to play Santa.’”

“It’s a lot of fun,” said Hoffman, who works with a placement agency for real-beard Santas.

President’s Park is the national park that includes the White House and surrounding grounds, including The Ellipse where the outdoor holiday displays are located. In addition to the National Christmas Tree, the displays include “Santa’s workshop,” a model railroad and the “Pathway of Peace” that features trees sponsored by all 50 states plus the five territories and the District of Columbia.

The lighting of the National Christmas Tree is scheduled for Dec. 6. Santa’s Workshop is slated to run from Dec. 8 to 24, according to the National Park Service.

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Kevin Miller is Washington bureau chief for the Portland Press Herald and MaineToday Media. He has worked as a journalist in Maine for 6 ½ years, covering the environment, politics and the State House. Before arriving in Maine, he wrote about politics, government and education for newspapers in Virginia and Maryland.
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