EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Christmas is still weeks away, but jolly ol’ Saint Nick has already been making the rounds in Southern New England.
But with safety protocols varying for different areas and stores, 12 News asked around to see what some locations have planned.
At Bass Pro Shops in Foxborough, Santa Claus is back for another year and already taking pictures with families for the holiday. General manager Jeff Moschella said he arrived on Nov. 6 with a police escort.
The store has protocols in place similar to last year’s, with families needing to make reservations ahead of time and practice social distancing when in line, but this year — the plexiglass barrier is gone.
“We do it safe and free. The kids sit on the bench rather than sit on Santa’s lap,” Moschella said, adding that they’ll sanitize the area between families.
Over at the Warwick Mall, general manager Domenic Schiavone said too have removed the plastic dividers and will keep with the same cleaning and social distancing protocols as last year.
When it comes to taking pictures with Santa, families will have options, according to Schiavone.
“They can sit on the bench in front of Santa, stand next to him, or if they’re comfortable, they can also sit on Santa,” he explained. “It really depends on what parents and the children are comfortable with.”
He also said masks are optional for those who are fully vaccinated.
At Cranston’s Garden City Center, Faith Lockhart said Santa has returned after taking last year off.
“We really wanted to keep that intimate experience and every way that we looked at it, we just wanted it to be safe for the kids,” she said, explaining last year’s decision.
After getting feedback from the community, Lockhart said they’re excited to bring Santa back this year.
“It’s just one family at a time, and then between sessions we’ll do a sanitization inside the set,” Lockhart added.
Since even Santa can contract COVID-19, Lockhart said he’ll be tested weekly. Children can go maskless when sitting with him, which will be done by reservation only.
“They can show up and walk in, but they will be given a time to come back,” Lockhart said. “We recommend the online booking. It’s just the easiest way to know that you’re getting to see Santa at a specific time.”
Although photos with Santa begin on Friday, Lockhart said Santa’s big arrival will be Saturday, Nov. 27.
“That starts at 10 a.m. Santa’s going to come in on a horse-drawn carriage. Kids will have the chance to go on a hayride with the horses as well,” she said, adding that hot cocoa and holiday music will also be available.
Santa plans to arrive at the Warwick Mall on Saturday, and has already started taking photos with families at the Dartmouth Mall.
If you’re planning to visit Santa at a different location, it’s a good idea to check the store’s protocols and see if you can make a reservation ahead of time by calling or visiting their website.