INDIANAPOLIS — Here comes Santa Clause right on time for Christmas, but this year the jolly old man’s magic might be in short supply due to the pandemic.
WRTV spoke with one Santa who’s trying to help make sure there’s enough Santa to go around and fill the Christmas spirit for Hoosier kids.
The feeling of joy follows Santa everywhere. Especially near the chair, where he takes pictures with kids during the holiday season.
Maybe it’s the twinkle in his eyes or the jolly laugh, but Santa’s like Larry Shaw tells WRTV they’re close to the big guy at the North Pole.
“We are basically Santa’s family,” Shaw said.
Shaw said he’s in Indianapolis during this special time of the year, as Circle City Santa.
“Except when I’m in the North Pole of course,” Shaw said.
However, he said Santa’s spread thin.
“We do have less Santa’s because some of them are, decided not to do it this year because of COVID and some of them went to virtual visits because they didn’t want to deal with COVID, but then we also have this double demand,” Shaw said.
Shaw said people missed Santa during last year’s pandemic Christmas.
"People want that Christmas spirit this year.”
This year Shaw said he’s seen a Santa loss.
“We have lost some, through deaths and some of them are actually COVID deaths, but I wouldn’t say it’s a big percentage,” Shaw said.
That small percentage is mostly because Santa’s are older and more vulnerable to illnesses.
Some are in their 80s and 90s. Now some Indiana malls are taking pandemic precautions during Santa visits.
So malls like the Shops at Perry Crossing have different methods where kids can socially distance from Santa by sitting on a stole, instead of in his lap.
Whether in a lap or by his side, kids still feel Santa’s magic.
“Oh, they love it,” Shaw said.
To help curb the Santa shortage during this pandemic, it’s helpful that Shaw started a Santa group called Hoosier Santa’s.
Over the last ten years, he’s recruited and trained hundreds of Hoosiers to be ‘friends with Santa.’
“If I see somebody with a really nice-looking white beard, I’ll go up to them and ask them if they’d perform the job,” Shaw said.
With the right training, Hoosier Santa’s bring the spirit of Christmas alive.
Santa serves as a reminder to everyone that you better watch out, you better not cry, better not pout and Shaw’s telling you why you should remember pandemic basics, during your Santa visit.
“Keep your hands clean, don’t touch your face, especially your eyes and especially your mouth,” Shaw said.
Locally, Shaw said average Santa’s make about $10,000 dollars or more, each holiday season, but the good ones don’t do it for money.
This Santa shortage is something that’s not just local, but it’s nationwide. WRTV spoke with Santa Allen the founder of Hire Santa.com.
His company runs an extensive database full of Santa Claus entertainers. Then they match them with families and businesses across the country. Allen said the demand for Santa’s is up by over 120%, when compared to pre-pandemic times.
That’s happening while some Santa’s are hesitant to get back out there, and they’ve lost over 335 Santa’s over the last year.
“We actually are seeing about 10% fewer Santa’s this year, than we’ve had in previous years to help spread the love and joy of Christmas,” Allen said.
WRTV asked how tough is that?
“It’s incredibly tough," Allen said. "We have hundreds of people who reach out to hire Santa dot com every single day and they want us to help bring the love and joy of Christmas. Were just sold out this year and one of the interesting things we’re seeing this year at hire Santa dot com is that people are already booking for 2022.”