BLOOMINGTON, Minn. (KMSP) - Every year families wait in long lines--sometimes for hours--just to get a few minutes with Santa.
The anticipation and joy of this holiday tradition isn’t just for the children, however, it’s just as memorable for jolly old Saint Nick.
With Christmas fast approaching and plenty of children with wishes to hear, there's no rest for a weary Santa. In the end, though, it's all worth it.
Santa has some obvious responsibilities, like supervising the elves in the North Pole and checking the naughty list--but more than anything he cherishes the time he gets to spend with families.
At the Mall of America, visits with Santa are unique. Parents don’t have to wait with their kids in line to visit, they have schedules and can meet with with their very own Santa in a private room. For more than 20 years, hundreds, if not thousands of families have booked time to visit the jolly old fellow.
One of those families is a member of our Fox 9 family–Meteorologist Keith Marler. He and his wife, Susan, have taken their kids Jack and Gracie every year since they were born--they’re now 10 and 13-years-old.
“Gracie was just six weeks old and we had heard that this Mall of America Santa was the bee’s knees,” Marler said.
In the blink of an eye it became a tradition for the family.
“He knows the kids from year to year," Marler said. "He recognizes them now.”
Hour after hour, Santa makes children feel special at the Mall of America as he calls them by name.
“I spend 90 percent of my day on this floor at their level,” said longtime holiday performer Santa Sid. “I’m looking in their eyes. And I do a lot of high fives with kids and I ask them a lot of simple questions.”
Once children are registered on the “nice list” it’s time for another list: the wish list.
They've evolved over the years as technology and digital toys have become top-of-the-list items. At one point, there was even a seven-year-old who asked for his own domain name, Sid said.
“I remember this one year, I had this girl come up and she goes, 'I wasn’t here last year.'' Sid said. "And I go, 'Why is that?' and she goes, 'I had one of those attitudes, but I’m back.' She was 13 years old.”
As for Santa Sid, he’s happy as can be. After performing as Santa for more than 40 years he still enjoys visiting with families every day throughout the holiday season, taking part in their traditions and watching the kids grow up.