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Santa checks in at the mall

Simon Whitehouse
Northern News Services
Published Friday, December 9, 2011

Few things bring as much delight to a child as seeing a mall Santa Claus waiting to take Christmas present requests.

NNSL photo/graphic

Santa Claus and his elf assistant, Stephen Watton, greeted children over the weekend and heard requests for Christmas presents. The two will be at the mall each weekend until Dec. 23. - Darron Letts/NNSL photo

Since the beginning of the month, Centre Square Mall is once again inviting Yellowknife children to talk to Santa and tell him what they want for the upcoming holiday.

Yellowknifer ot was a good time to check in with Santa and see how he is doing.

Old Saint Nick has been active at the mall for five years now, he said, and the reaction he gets from children makes the job worthwhile.

"I enjoy the looks on the kids' faces," Santa said. "There was one little girl who saw me as soon as I arrived this weekend. When I got in the door, she took my hand and walked me to my seat. She sat down on the floor and it was the greatest thing in the world for her. Just seeing the eyes open up wide and the big smiles ... I mean, she gave me a hug and walked me all the way here."

Santa said his visits to the mall have not really changed very much through the years, except that the location for greeting children has moved around to various spots. He said he tends to greet children from as young as newborns up to kids who are five or six years old. The older children can better articulate what presents they would like to receive from Santa.

Santa said from among the close to 200 youngsters who greeted him last Saturday, he believes the most popular items being requested this year are trucks and planes, especially the remote-controlled variety, and also dolls and dollhouses.

Of course, Santa himself does not do all the work to ensure that a good presentation is made. In fact, the other three helpers who were on site last weekend saw the event as "a family affair." The Wattons - Stephen Sr. Bridget, and son Stephen Jr. played their own roles to support Santa's arrival.

Stephen Jr., who began volunteering with his mother's direction for the first time this year, dressed as Santa's elf assistant. He greeted the children and handed out candy canes as they departed.

"The kids kind of guide themselves to Santa," he explained, adding that he also enjoys volunteering his time and seeing the reactions from the children. "I would do it again next year."

Stephen Sr., a public affairs official with the military, is providing his camera work for the Santa sessions.

"I just enjoy taking pictures of the kids and seeing their expressions when they see Santa," he said.

Bridget, an office administrator with Huntingdon Real Estate Investment Trust, which manages the lower level of the mall, said there has been quite a bit of preparation put into Santa's visit.

"It is a lot of work to put it together, especially with promotions," she said. "We put an ad in the newspaper, we did a mail draw to over 2,000 houses in Yellowknife, sent an e-blast through the Chamber of Commerce."

Santa will return to the Centre Square Mall this weekend from noon to 5 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday. Shoppers and interested patrons of the mall can have their photos taken up to Dec. 23.

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