Many of the usual places children can see Santa Claus are still inviting him from the North Pole, but have several precautions in place due to COVID-19.
Visits with Santa Claus will be a little different this Christmas season. (Photo: ToddKuhns, Getty Images/iStockphoto)
Add a facemask to the red suit and floppy hat for ol’ Kriss Kringle this year.
Despite a world that looks incredibly different this holiday season, Santa Claus will still make himself available across the region to children seeking gift requests this year.
Many of the area malls will bring Santa back this holiday season, though it will look plenty different than years past. Santa’s Flight Academy returns to Twelve Oaks Mall with a contactless option beginning Friday a little later than in previous years. Santa will hold court in his usual spot in the center of the mall and don a face covering when meeting socially-distanced with visiting boys and girls.
Kelsey Kiefer, marketing specialist for the mall at 27500 Novi Road in Novi, said it was important to find a way to bring Santa to the mall this year.
“When you think of Santa and you think of the holidays, I think a lot of people think of shopping and visiting a shopping center,” she said. “I think we obviously want to create that normalcy. (We’re) just having to reimagine it a little different this year.”
Those who typically see Santa at Laurel Park Place, 37700 Six Mile in Livonia, will have a few options this year. The jolly old elf returns to Livonia beginning Black Friday and will hold court through Christmas Eve. In addition to the in-person, socially-distanced visit in the food court available beginning Friday, parents can instead schedule a virtual visit with St. Nick. Appointments to meet with Santa online can be made through the Laurel Park Place website.
Families heading to Somerset Collection, 2800 W. Big Beaver in Troy, can partake in a few holiday events before seeing Santa at his castle from a safe distance. The mall will offer an experience called “Holiday Wander,” an interactive holiday exhibit complete with make-and-take crafts as well as allowing guests to imagine themselves in a festive wonderland. Santa will meet with children who have a reservation at the mall noon to 7 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday.
All malls require reservations to meet with Santa beforehand.
Santa out and about
The mall isn’t the only place Santa can be found this holiday season practicing social distancing. He’ll make himself available at several community spots, including at least one new experience in a historic village.
Santa will visit with children from the porch of the Alexander Blue House at Livonia’s Greenmead Historical Park, 20501 Newburgh. He’ll stop by for a few Saturdays in December to meet with children and have photos taken with them.
Ted Davis, the city’s superintendent of parks and recreation, said the hope is to eventually turn the historic little village at Eight Mile and Newburgh into a sort of “mini Campus Martius” every year for the holidays. Bringing Santa this year is just the first step toward that vision to continue enhancing the park, which could have its own master plan in the future.
“This year’s the first little taste of that,” he said. “We can start and kind of get this on people’s radars. We think they’ll be interested.”
Santa will be available 5-8 p.m. on Dec. 5, 12, 13, 19 and 20 at Greenmead. Visits can be scheduled through the city’s parks and recreation website.
Novi will present Santa via drive-thru 5:30-9 p.m. Dec. 4 at the Civic Center, 45175 W. 10 Mile. For $5/vehicle, visitors can stop to see Santa from their cars and receive hot chocolate, cookies and a craft. Register for the experience at cityofnovi.org before Nov. 30.
The Santa House in Birmingham returns for a new kind of experience in Shain Park. Families who make an appointment can visit with Santa under the pavilion at the park on Merrill Street. Santa returns Nov. 28 and appointments can be made through the Birmingham Shopping District’s website.
Farmington Hills has replaced its typical Cookies with Santa event this year with an outdoor visit. Families can sign up for a time slot on either Dec. 2 or Dec. 5 for a visit at Heritage Park off Farmington Road. There, families can visit with Santa and enjoy a craft and campfire to warm up. Sign up for the visit at recreg.fhgov.com.
Instead of one big event at Kellogg Park in downtown Plymouth this year, Santa will instead greet children across the city at various parks the evening of Black Friday. After beginning his citywide trek at 5:45 p.m. downtown by lighting the tree and receiving a key to the city, he’ll then trade in his sleigh and flying reindeer for a fire truck and stop at the following parks: Fairground, Lions Club, Wilcox, Garden Club, Rotary, Hough, Kiwanis, Starkweather and Knights of Columbus parks. Children can keep track of where Santa is by visiting the City of Plymouth’s Facebook page that night, which will have a Santa tracker live.
All visits from Santa could change depending on the current climate surrounding COVID-19.
Santa skips Maybury Farm this year
While most places are making some modifications to the typical holiday visits, not every place will bring Santa Claus back this year. Maybury Farm, 50165 Eight Mile in Northville Township, has opted to keep Santa at the North Pole this year as he prepares to deliver gifts.
Diana Wallace, executive director of the farm and the Northville Community Foundation, said they felt the area in the barn where Santa typically greets families wasn’t large enough to have enough distance to keep everyone safe.
“We don’t have a lot of open floor space,” she said. “As much as we didn’t like making that decision, we didn’t want families to lose that close connectivity with Santa at the farm.”
Also canceled at the farm is “A Maybury Farm Country Christmas,” a holiday event that would have opened the farm up for two weekends for families to come visit. The recent state health department order limiting gatherings would have left just one weekend available, and Wallace said the board wanted to err on the side of caution, as well as not alienate those who planned on coming the first weekend in December while the order was still in place.
Contact reporter David Veselenak at [email protected] or 734-678-6728. Follow him on Twitter @davidveselenak.
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