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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Santa Claus taking COVID-19 seriously as he brings his magic to Spokane this year

UPDATED: Fri., Nov. 20, 2020

With a wave of his arms and a bellow of “Merry Christmas,” Santa used his magic to light 1,000 Christmas lights on River Park Square Mall’s 60-foot Christmas tree Friday evening.

Normally Santa would be joined by a crowd of “hundreds if not thousands,” for the tree lighting, said Rita Koefod, Director of Marketing for the mall. This year, Santa kept it cozy to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Luckily, Santa said he hasn’t had any run-ins with the COVID-19 himself. He said the virus has not reached his small community of elves at his workshop at the North Pole.

But COVID has hit close to home, even for Santa. Antarctica, at the South Pole, is the only continent untouched by COVID-19. The town of North Pole, Alaska has had 17 COVID-19 deaths. Nunavut, the most northern Canadian territory in the Arctic, entered a lockdown this week as cases of COVID-19 crept up. So Santa takes COVID-19 very seriously, wearing a face shield at all times while in Spokane.

Santa will start meeting kids Saturday.

River Park Square Mall worked with Cherry Hill Programs, a company that specializes in photography experiences across the country, to keep Santa and families socially distanced, Koefod said. {span}River Park Square is owned by Centennial Properties, an affiliate of the Cowles Co., which also publishes The Spokesman-Review.{/span}

Instead of sitting on Santa’s lap this year, kids will sit on a big Christmas gift bench 6 feet or more away . Plexi-glass will divide families and Santa’s workers at the checkout counter. To avoid crowds and lines, families will make reservations to meet Santa online, Koefod said.

Santa said after 46 years visiting Spokane, “because the kids are so good here,” he was ready to make some wishes come true in person.

“I didn’t mind coming, but I thought, you know, the Health Department people might object,” Santa said. “They realized it was a necessary thing.”

Koefod said families who don’t want to come out to the mall this year should check riverparksquare.com for upcoming ways to get a Santa experience from home.

Santa’s advice for kids who don’t get to meet him in person this year: “Be good and listen, go to bed when you’re told and pick up your toys.”

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