This year’s Santa Claus experience mixes laps and distance

New York (Associated Press)-Santa Claus is back this year, but as he continues to tiptoe through the pandemic, he implores caution.

“Be smart. Care. 57-year-old Kevin Chesney has always been wearing a big red suit. If you have the slightest itching or the slightest sensation in your throat, please worry about yourself and other People are worried and know that Santa Claus will always be there next year because he is still a child.

During the downturn of Jolly Old Elves—a decrease of about 15% in a large database—Chesney was busier than ever in the Arctic in Moorestown, New Jersey. The photo studio where he worked quickly sold out 4,500 appointments with him and the seven other Santas in the studio stables.

They are one of the brave men in the Santa Claus team and can make full contact, including sitting on the lap, but Chesney wears a mask before taking pictures.

Other Santas may not wear masks or plastic masks like many people did last year, nor are they hanging out in protective snowballs, but this season seems to be 50 to 50-year-old Santas who are not ready to hug and whisper in their ears. Pray for secret wishes, and smile or sob on their knees with the children.

Some Santas will stay behind obstacles that appeared last year for safety. At the Mall of America in Minnesota, the big man will be placed in a cabin behind the window, and guests will sit on a bench in front of him. In the 169 locations of outdoor retailers Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s, benches will also be used, and plastic partitions will be deployed in some stores for Santa Claus to take photos.

Other retailers and Santa’s hosts offer the option of no contact or full contact, even if the distance is not specified. Many require or encourage online bookings to reduce the number of people waiting.

According to Neil Saunders, managing director of GlobalData Retail, more than 10 million American families visited Santa in a mall or store in 2019. He said that nearly 73% of them still spend money in nearby restaurants or shops. Last year, the company’s research found that 6.1 million families visited Santa Claus, and fewer retailers and shopping malls personally provide Christmas stars. Among these tourists, 62% eat or shop nearby.

Sanders said that it is expected that about 8.9 million families will visit Santa in person this year, and virtual visits are still a big option.

He said: “The lingering fears of the virus and ongoing restrictions in some states and places continue to hinder personal visits to Santa Claus.”

Chris Landtroop, spokesperson for Santa Claus supplier Cherry Hill Programs, is optimistic. The newly launched vaccinations for children between 5 and 11 years of age will definitely help.

“Santa Claus is back and we are very excited about it. Last year was very difficult,” Lantrop said.

The company purchases Santa Claus throughout the year in the 800 shopping malls, large stores, and other locations it serves, and also provides contactless access options. Cherry Hill requires Santa Claus and other employees to be vaccinated, and requires exempt employees to be tested regularly.

“After all, we want our guests to feel comfortable,” Lantrop said.

For nearly two decades, Luther Landon has been providing the Santa Claus experience at the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota. Last year, he thought of the idea of ​​a cabin, but it was closed a day later due to the pandemic. He turned to virtual Santa, which will offer both this year.

Speaking of the pandemic, he said: “We think it is very irresponsible for us to ignore it and pretend that everything is back to normal.” “We hide some microphones so Santa can hear it well. I I know from our Santa Claus community and many other Santas that most of them are reluctant and very reluctant to go back to the pre-pandemic state. But we also have some people like, you know what, I don’t care Having these two groups is also what is happening in this country.”

Russell Hurd of Royce, Texas has been playing Santa Claus since he retired in 2017. At the Gaylord Texas Resort and Convention Center near Dallas, he will be dressed in a red suit with a long, very real white beard. There is a distance between him and the crowd, and he needs to wear a mask. He longed for this to end.

“The way of the past also made sense for us Santa Claus. I mean, we are humans. We desire this kind of interaction, but now we do our best,” Hurd said.

Hurd was not vaccinated and regularly tested for COVID.

“I know many Santas across the country who are not vaccinated. I mean, it’s not just Texas,” he said.

Count American Dream is a 3 million square foot shopping mall in East Rutherford, New Jersey, where retailers provide long-distance Santa Claus services. He will be on ice, skating with tourists on the indoor ice rink, and playing tools with guests in pink golf carts.

In the Macy’s store, Santa Claus will make his list behind the table and check it twice, while the guests sit on the other side.

Kathleen Wright, senior manager of brand entertainment at Macy’s, said: “We encourage everyone to keep a mask during their visit.” “Since 1862, Santa has been part of the tradition of Macy’s, so we are very I am happy to continue this tradition safely this year.”

At Oakbrook Center, a Chicago suburban shopping mall owned by Brookfield Properties, Santa’s location is a modified RV, and his fans allow entry. Santa Claus will be held in 117 of the 132 shopping malls owned by Brookfield in 43 states. The company is complying with local regulations on safety agreements, but will keep a distance from anyone who requests it. The same is true for CBL Properties, which owns 63 shopping centers in 24 states and provided a safe distance Santa visit service last year.

“This year we will bring back a more traditional Santa Claus experience,” said CBL spokesperson Stacy Keating. “Visitors who wish to do this can sit on Santa’s lap or on Santa’s bench. Unless there are local regulations, there is no need to wear a mask on the set or when taking pictures.”

And, the bonus: “We also brought back the photo night with Santa’s pets,” she said, “and the Santa Caring Activity, which is a reservation-only activity that caters to those with sensory sensitivity and treats them In other words, the traditional experience may be too much.”

The pandemic has affected Santa in other ways.

Stephen Arnold, 71-year-old head of IBRBS (formerly known as the International Brotherhood of Real Bearded Santa Clauses), said that his organization has about 2,000 Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus, of which 57 Santa Clauses are affected by the new crown pneumonia. Killed.

“Most of us are overweight, have diabetes, and have heart disease,” said Arnold, a long-term Santa who worked virtual and personally in Memphis, Tennessee this year. “I mean, we are the main target of diseases like COVID.”

Copyright © 2021 The Washington Times, LLC.

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