Santa Claus will officially arrive at Christiansburg’s Uptown Mall Saturday, but sitting on his lap will be a little different this year.
The COVID-19 pandemic has drastically affected almost everything about contemporary life, and visiting Santa is no exception.
Tina Waugh, the marketing director at the Uptown Mall in Christiansburg, admits this will be a different year and a different way of seeing Santa, but the mall does plan to have him available.
“The Santa Set will be a different experience this year with CDC guidelines being followed,” she said. The jolly old man will still be set up in the middle of the mall community area, but visits will be by appointment only this year to minimize contact by eliminating lines and limiting the number of people gathering at one time, according to Waugh. Neither will there be any direct contact with Santa. Appointments may be scheduled by visiting www.whereissanta.com/virginia/newriver.
Masks will be required, hand sanitizers will be in place at the set, and disinfecting of high- contact areas will be done throughout the day.
“We want to keep visitors and staff as safe as possible while still being able to make holiday memories,” Waugh said.
More than 10 million people visited Santa in a mall or store nationally last year, and according to Global Data Retail, nearly 73 percent of them spent money at nearby stores and restaurants. So Uptown is hoping shoppers will still visit surrounding retailers.
Macy’s, which has the largest and most famous Santa and Kris Kringle locations, has cancelled its in-person visits, saying it could not provide a safe environment for visitors.
The Christiansburg Recreation Department is providing an alternative to the mall visit: calls from the North Pole. The Rec Department has been in contact with the North Pole and everyone there, including Santa, is extremely busy. Santa has agreed to personally call children 8 years old and younger on Wednesday, Dec. 2, and Friday, Dec. 4, starting at 5:30 p.m. both days.
Parents can arrange to have Santa call their children by printing off a form on the town’s website at www.christiansburg.org and returning it to the recreation department.