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Santa’s coming to town, but you can’t sit on his lap

UPDATED: Thu., Nov. 19, 2020

River Park Square Marketing Director Rita Koefod arranges the scenery where Santa will sit, starting Saturday, for photos at the downtown mall.  Visitors will sit on benches nearby for photos, but won't be allowed to approach Santa, sit on his lap or give him a hug. (Jesse Tinsley/The Spokesman-Review)
River Park Square Marketing Director Rita Koefod arranges the scenery where Santa will sit, starting Saturday, for photos at the downtown mall. Visitors will sit on benches nearby for photos, but won't be allowed to approach Santa, sit on his lap or give him a hug. (Jesse Tinsley/The Spokesman-Review)

You’re a mean one, 2020.

But you can’t steal Christmas.

Santa Claus is still coming to town, and for thousands of children in Spokane, it won’t matter that he’ll be sitting behind an acrylic sheet, his “ho-ho-hos” muffled by a mask.

After all, there are wishes to be heard. And only Santa can do that.

And even from afar he’ll be able to tell who’s been washing their hands and keeping their distance, this year’s measure of naughty or nice.

Yes, the holidays will look and feel a bit different this year, but that doesn’t mean parents should miss the big picture – or the chance for a picture with Santa at River Park Square.

That wish, too, is still being granted, though mostly by appointment – another concession to COVID-19. Walk-ins will be accommodated if there’s an open slot.

The downtown mall’s 50-foot-high tree is already trimmed, and Santa’s seat will be filled from Saturday all the way to Christmas Eve.

The guest of honor will be “Spokane’s favorite Santa, who’s been doing this for years and years,” said Rita Koefod, director of marketing at River Park Square.

“He’s coming back, and we’re taking precautions to keep Santa and his guests safe,” Koefod said.

That means Santa will sit behind a decorative wall, and – sorry, kids – Santa’s lap will be empty this year.

However, River Park Square is promising a full Santa experience. For those precious photos, everyone will be properly distanced, but Koefod said the wide camera angles will make up for that.

“There’s still a lot of holiday magic to be found at River Park Square,” she said.

By that she meant shopping opportunities as well as the Santa experience.

“Right now is a great time to get an early jump on your holiday shopping,” said Koefod, who noted that the mall will also hold Christmas Tree Elegance, from Dec. 1-13. “We’re excited to be able to offer that, and we’re working closely with the health board.”

River Park Square is owned by Centennial Properties, an affiliate of the Cowles Co., which also publishes The Spokesman-Review.

The Santa experience also will be offered at NorthTown and Spokane Valley malls.

From Nov. 27 to Dec. 23, both malls will offer photo ops with Santa. NorthTown’s Santa will be on the first floor, near the Get Air Trampoline, while the Valley mall photos will be taken on the lower level of the J.C. Penney’s court.

The hours will be the same at both sites, also by reservation only: Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 6 p.m.

For last-minute wishes, Santa will be available at both malls on Christmas Eve, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The fun has already begun at Cabela’s in Post Falls, where children may pose for free in front of Santa. Reservations are required, as are face coverings.

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