JACKSONVILLE, Fla — First Coast families' most cherished holiday traditions are being affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
This means, no matter if they have been naughty or nice, kids will likely be telling Santa Claus what they want for Christmas from a safe distance.
For it's Holly Jolly Jacksonville event this weekend, Markets at Town Center plan to have old Saint Nick up on a stage and kids six feet apart in front of him for pictures.
“We feel like we can still roll out successful holiday festivities... while practicing all the CDC guidelines and safety awareness," Helen Cielsa, Markets at Town Center General Property Manager said.
The outdoor event this year will have vendors spread out across the shopping center and each one will be cleaning frequently, she explained.
There will also be sanitizing stations at each vendor, and those helping run Holly Jolly Jacksonville are required to wear masks.
“We're all just looking forward to people getting out and shopping," Cielsa said. "And supporting your brick and mortars.”
Long-time Amelia Island photographer Kellie Boston also has had to get creative this year – so, kids can get their wish lists to Saint Nick, and parents can get their Christmas card-worthy picture.
“Santa and Mrs. Claus were quarantining in the North Pole prior to our session, so we could make sure that they were staying healthy," Boston explained. "I was wearing a mask, my assistants were all wearing masks.”
For her Exclusive Santa Experience shoots, Boston had a bench in her studio for kids to sit on and a letter-writing activity to keep them busy – all the while maintaining some distance between the kids, Santa and Mrs. Claus.
She also gave herself more time in between appointments to do some extra cleaning and temperature checks and has given families the option to do holiday shoots without the Clauses.
Boston also partners with Amelia Island Tourist Development Council (AITDC) and Convention & Visitors Bureau (AICVB) for their huge annual Dickens on Centre event, which is being limited this year to reservation-based portrait sessions the first two weekends of December.
“We will have it in a workshop. [The Kids] are gonna be able to talk to Santa and sit on a bench in front of the workshop – with Santa there behind it," Boston said.
And if you want to get in your family visit with Saint Nick at Holly Jolly Jacksonville, the event is this Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.