PUYALLUP, Wash. - Some holiday cheer might just be what many people need to lift their spirits after this difficult year. However, celebrating will look and feel a lot different as social distancing continues during the COVID-19 pandemic. Santa Claus and his helpers are still trying to make the best of the season and save Christmas.
Santa made a visit to Puyallup, Wednesday, to get ready for the annual North Pole at the Fair. It’s a community event known as, “a children’s museum on Christmas steroids.”
Creator and Santa’s photographer, Steve James, said they would serve as many as 1,500 people on a typical weekend. However, due to the pandemic, experiences at the North Pole will be drastically different.
“We’re going to do alright with this. We’re going to get through this and we’re going to make it the best Christmas we possibly can. And kids, I love you guys and we’re going to make it work,” said Santa.
James said the North Pole at the Fair will offer five unique virtual and in-person interactions with Santa. The options include:
- Santa Keepsake – a special, personalized recorded video from Santa
- Santa Conversation – a virtual video chat with Santa
- Magical Santa Photos – take a picture unmasked without Santa in the room and an unmasked Santa will be digitally added in the final photo
- The Masked Santa – children 5-years-old and up required to wear a mask for a picture with masked Santa
- Photo of a Photo – send a desired picture to be digitally placed into a photo with Santa holding a frame.
“We’re just trying to put something into their lives, something a little bit more special—especially during this when you can’t go out and have a lot of fun. Try to bring the fun to them a little bit,” said James.
James said he and his team are in constant communication with the Washington State Department of Health. As the guidelines shift, he said health officers continue helping them adjust their plan to meet safety requirements.
Usually, a trip to the North Pole consists of 15 hands-on activity rooms, a tour of Santa’s house, and several outdoor festivities, just to name a few things. James said in order to protect Santa and his elves, Santa’s house will be the only indoor amenity. Families who chose to go inside will have to wear masks and stay together. They will wait in one of six rooms to maintain social distance from other groups. There will be virtual interactions in every room until it’s their turn to take their picture.
“If I can bring a little bit of light onto their lives and a little bit of joy into their lives, then that will warm my heart totally. Absolutely warm my heart,” said Santa.
There are further instructions for those who chose Option 4: The Masked Santa. Children 5-years-old and up are required to wear masks. There will be a floor marker where kids must stand six feet apart from Santa. They will have a chance to share one wish rather than a full list in order to reduce time and exposure.
“I’m going to miss the little hugs. I used to give hugs, I can’t do that this year. Their smiling faces—I don’t get to see that. And another thing, they don’t get to sit on my lap,” said Santa. “I at least get to see the little spark in their eyes. That’s the most important thing, the spark.”
“I jokingly say we’ve taken all the fun out of it, but we’re going to bring fun back into it. But there’s going to be less things to touch. The health department doesn’t want high traffic areas, things that are touching,” said James.
Online reservations are available. James said the first weekend of the season is fully booked. The team also added a new television production set at the North Pole where they record and air videos on "Santatube Online," for those who would like to celebrate from home.
In these trying times, James, Santa and his helpers say they’re still going to do their best to bring some holiday cheer.
“Don’t forget to leave me some cookies, ho ho! Because I love cookies, I love them!” said Santa. “Ho, ho ho! Alright, guys, you take care. Love you.”