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Why you might have a harder time visiting Santa Claus this year

Many Santa performers are sitting out the season due to COVID concerns.

DES MOINES, Iowa — For kids across the country, a visit with St. Nick is a highlight of the Christmas season. But if you're having a hard time finding Father Christmas this year, you're not alone. Kids have been waiting all year to tell him what they want for Christmas. 

"The outpouring has been great," said Jeff Hanna, a Santa Claus performer. "I had one kid almost tackled me last weekend when I showed up in Altoona and he just came flying out of the audience and grabbed onto my leg."

On Saturday, December 4, Hanna was at Delaware Elementary, getting Christmas wishes from dozens of kids. After a year of meeting with kids on Zoom, it's been nice to get back to doing things the old fashioned way.

"It's just such a great thing in people, not only the kids. You can just see the joy on a family's face when they're all standing around," Hanna said.

There's a problem, though: for many of us, it might be harder than usual to find a time to sit down with Santa. Mitch Allen, founder of hiresanta.com, explained why.

"Santa Claus entertainers are at a high risk for a negative outcome if they get COVID, so a number are sitting out their year like they did last year. And unfortunately, we lost a few Santas last year and over the last 18 months due to COVID," Allen said.

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Even so, Allen says that most of the places you'd expect to see Santa will still have him -- the hours just might look a bit different, so you'll want to check schedules in advance. The Jolly old elf will be more than happy to tell you if you've been naughty or nice.

"Santa is back in force and is going to be a force to be reckoned with here and in upcoming weeks, so don't be afraid of Santa, kids. And if your parents are acting up, there's still time for them to be good yet this Christmas," Hanna said.

This year, Hanna will be donating half of the money he receives for Santa appearances to the Altoona Kids Cafe, which helps provide meals for underserved kids in Polk County. For arranging visits, Hanna can be contacted at jwhannaman@gmail.com.

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