According to officials with Towne Square Mall, Santa Claus is coming to town. From Dec. 12-24, Santa will resume his long-held position at the center of the mall to pose for photos with children and families.
Instead of hiring a professional photographer and charging for photos, officials with Gulfstream Commercial Services decided to make the event free for everyone this year. Each group will be responsible for taking their own photos.
“I’m pretty sure we are the only [venue] offering pictures with Santa this year on a regular basis,” said Mandy Froehlich, operations support manager at Gulfstream. “We haven’t heard of anyone else who’s doing this.”
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s event will look and operate a little differently. Children will not be able to sit in Santa’s lap, nor come within six feet of him. Masks will be required for everyone — including Santa — at all times, even when taking pictures. Markers will also be placed to keep everyone in line safely distanced.
Presents and an array of other large props will be placed between Santa and those in line to have their pictures taken to prevent any close contact from occurring. Santa will sit in his chair behind those taking photographs with him. A bench will be used for seating and will be sanitized between each photo.
In following state-mandated guidelines, Froehlich said Gulfstream — which took over ownership of Towne Square Mall last year — wanted to plan the safest event possible while also providing the community with a traditional holiday experience.
“We just didn’t want the tradition to be lost this year. This has been such a tough year, but not to have Santa at all is even harder. So I kind of wanted it to be a free event,” Froehlich said. “We’re still using the Macy’s Santa, plus we’ll have a substitute. We said, ‘There’s a way we can do it — we just have to very careful.’”
The schedule was also designed to keep people safe and prevent overcrowding.
The schedule will take effect Dec. 12-24 as follows:
- Monday-Friday: 5-7 p.m.
- Saturday: 10 a.m.-noon
- Sunday: noon-4 p.m.