LEANNE ITALIEAP Entertainment Writer
New York (AP) — Santa is back this year, but cautions as he continues to overcome the pandemic.
“Be wise. Be careful. If you have the smallest tickling in your throat, the smallest feeling, worry about yourself, worry about others, and know that Santa will always be there next year.” , Said 57-year-old Kevin Chesney, wearing a large red suit. He has been a kid since he was a kid.
In the recession of the Jolly Old Elves (about 15% less in one big database), Chesnee is more busy than ever from the North Pole in Moorestown, NJ. The photo studio where he works quickly sold out 4,500 appointments to sit with him and seven other Santas in the studio’s stables.
Chesnees wear masks until just before the photo is taken, but they are one of Santa’s rank brave men, including full contact visits.
Other Santas may not be wearing masks or plastic face shields or hanging from protective snow globes like last year, but they don’t seem ready to hug this season. is. , And the children smile and kneel.
Some Santas remain behind the barriers that emerged last year for safety. At the Mall of America in Minnesota, the big man is housed in a log hut behind the window, and guests are sitting on the bench in front of him. At 169 locations in the outdoor retailers Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s, benches will also be used and plastic dividers will be placed in several stores for Santa’s photography.
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Other retailers and Santa’s hosts offer the option of no contact or full contact, even if there is no distance obligation. And many are requesting or encouraging online bookings to reduce the number of people waiting.
According to Neil Saunders, managing director of Global Data Retail, more than 10 million US households visited Santa in malls and stores in 2019. He said nearly 73% of them were also spending money at nearby restaurants and stores. Last year, the company survey found that 6.1 million households visited Santa, with fewer retailers and malls offering holiday stars directly. Of those visitors, 62% ate or shopped nearby.
According to Sanders, this year’s forecast is that about 8.9 million households will visit Santa directly, and virtual visits are still a big option.
“Prolonged concerns about the virus and ongoing restrictions in some states and regions continue to act as a brake on direct visits to Santa,” he said.
Chris Lund Troop, a spokeswoman for Santa Bender’s Cherry Hill program, is optimistic. New developments in vaccination for children ages 5 to 11 will certainly help.
“I’m very excited about Santa’s return. It was incredibly hard last year,” Landtroop said.
The company procures Santa in 800 malls, large stores and other locations all year round, with the option of contactless visits. At Cherry Hill, Santa and other employees should be vaccinated and duty-free employees should be inspected regularly.
“At the end of the day, we want our guests to feel comfortable,” said Land Troop.
Luther Landon has been providing the Santa experience for nearly 20 years at the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota. Last year he came up with the idea of a log hut, but it was closed a day later due to a pandemic. He pivots to Virtual Santa and offers both this year.
“We think it’s very irresponsible for us to ignore it and pretend that everything is back to normal,” he said of the pandemic. “I’ve hidden some mics so that Santa can hear well. I know from our Santa community and I know many other Santas, so the majority of them are pre-pandemic. Reluctant to return to state and very reluctant. But we have some people that I don’t care about. Having both of these groups is what’s happening in the country as well. . “
Russellhard in Royse City, Texas, has been playing Santa since 2017 after retiring from the Army. He wears a red suit to wear a long and very realistic whitebeard at the Gaylord Texan Resort & Convention Center near Dallas. His visit with the crowd is distant and requires a mask. He is anxious for it to end.
“As before, it also makes sense for us Santa. That is, we are humans. We are anxious for that interaction, but for now we do what we can,” Hard said. Said.
The Hurd is not vaccinated and is regularly tested for COVID.
“I know a lot of innocent Santas all over the country, which means it’s not just Texas,” he said.
The American Dream, a 3 million-square-foot megamall in East Rutherford, NJ, is among the retailers offering Santa far away. He is on the ice, skating on the indoor skating rink with the visitor and using the tools with the guest on the hot pink golf cart.
At the Macy’s store, Santa creates a list, checks twice from behind the desk, and guests sit on the other side.
Kathleen Wright, Senior Manager of Macy’s Brand Entertainment, said: “Santa has been part of the Macy’s tradition since 1862, and we are pleased to continue the tradition safely this year.”
Santa’s spot in Oakbrook Center, a Chicago suburb mall owned by Brookfield Property, is a deceived camper van that fans are allowed to enter. Santa occurs in 117 of 132 malls owned by Brookfield in 43 states. The company follows local obligations regarding safety protocols, but keeps anyone asking questions away. The same applies to CBL properties. CBL Property owns 63 malls in 24 states and visited Santa from a safe distance last year.
“This year we will bring back the more traditional Santa experience,” said CBL spokeswoman Stacey Keating. “Visitors who want to do so can sit on Santa’s lap or on Santa’s bench. Unless there is a local obligation, no mask is needed while setting or taking pictures.”
And the bonus: “We will also bring back the night of pet photos with Santa,” she said. .. “
The pandemic hit Santa in other ways.
Stephen Arnold, 71-year-old head of IBRBS (formerly the International Brotherhood of Real Bearded Santas), said an organization of about 2,000 Santas and Mrs. Clauses lost 57 Santas in COVID.
“Most of us are overweight, diabetic, and suffer from heart disease,” said Arnold, a longtime Santa who works virtually and directly in Memphis, Tennessee this year. “That is, we are a major target for diseases like COVID.”
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This year’s Santa experience is a combination of laps and distance.Lifestyle
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