Sunday, December 5, 2021

Santa Claus comes to town, receives visitors young and old

December 8, 2000
Raechelle Bolling of Fowlerville sits to get her picture taken with Santa Claus Tuesday at the Meridian Mall. Raechelle will turn one year old on Christmas Eve. —

He sits on a large chair, dressed lavishly from head to toe, in a small castle topped with golden turrets.

He doesn’t rule a country. He doesn’t have lots of money. And he spends more time at the North Pole than in his castle.

That’s just his summer home. And it has a small fan to keep him cool.

Since Nov. 10, Santa Claus has been making appearances at his castle in Meridian Mall, 1982 W. Grand River Ave. in Okemos. Believers of all ages have stopped by to get pictures with jolly old St. Nicholas and to tell him what they want for Christmas.

“I ask them if they’ve been good kids and what they want for Christmas,” Santa says Wednesday night. “Sometimes I ask them if they cleaned their room.

“Mostly they’re in a hurry to tell me what they want, so I don’t even get the first question in.”

Austin Poole visits Santa every year.

After the 6-year-old - dressed in a gray sweatshirt with “Michigan State Spartans” printed in green - tells the jolly old man what he wants, he poses with his family.

“I wonder if his name is really Nicholas,” the East Lansing resident says to his sister Shyanne after they receive miniature candy canes, a token gift for visiting Santa.

Haley, another one of Santa’s visitors, walks up and eagerly says hi. She tells Santa what she wants and gets her picture taken with him.

The next guest, baby Mitchell, starts crying when his mother puts him on Santa’s lap.

“It’s Santa!” his father tells him.

Haydee Castellon, one of Santa’s helpers, holds up a stuffed Tigger doll.

“Mitchell!” She smiles, but the toddler doesn’t. She picks up a felt Santa doll with bells. With the help of Mitchell’s mom, dad and Rick Luna, another helper, Castellon gets Mitchell to smile. Luna quickly snaps the picture.

“When you finally get a good picture, it’s pretty neat - it’s usually pure luck,” Luna says.

“Who’s in there?” Jim peers into one of the castle’s towers as he waits to greet Santa.

“Ahh!” When he sees Santa, he turns away and sits on his father’s lap.

A lot of children get scared when they finally approach the big guy’s chair, Castellon says.

“It’s funny because they’re always so excited to get up there and then they get up there and they cry,” she says.

Jim says he will sit on Santa’s lap on one condition: “I want to know where his reindeers are first.”

Santa tells him: “They’re in the corral.”

“I saw you on TV,” Jim says. “I want a truck with a box.”

“We’ll see what we can do,” Santa answers.

“Where is it?” Jim asks.

“It’s not here until Christmas. It’s at the North Pole.”

Santa’s next guests are much older: 20-year-old Melissa Hughes and 17-year-old Shannon Hughes.

“He didn’t even ask us what we wanted for Christmas,” Shannon Hughes says after the visit.

Melissa Hughes says she and her sister often visited Santa when they were young.

“Our mom wanted a picture of us (this year), so it’ll be a nice surprise,” she says.

Santa says people of all ages stop by.

“It’s hard to tell the ages,” he says. “It seems like there’s a lot of young ones. We get a lot of adults, a lot of couples, a lot of ladies that want to do something for their mother, for their dad.”

Santa’s next visitor, Tessa, brings a paper with “I love you, Santa” drawn in marker. After telling him what she wants for Christmas, she adds the paper to a miniature red wicker sleigh next to his chair.

The sleigh is full of drawings and letters from children. Santa says he empties the sleigh every day.

“Sometimes, they bring little gifts. A little guy yesterday brought me a - I don’t know if it was ceramic - but a chicken he had created. Some kids give me boxes of Whitman’s Chocolates.”

“Hi Sheila,” Santa says to his next guest.

“How do you know my name?” she asks.

“Doesn’t Santa know everyone’s name?” he replies.

Zeb Wichert, 2, is so excited to see Santa that he runs right by him.

“That happens a lot,” Santa says.

Wichert’s sister, Shelby Wilson, takes Zeb back to Santa’s chair and sits on Santa’s lap with him.

Wilson says she has not thought about what she wants for Christmas.

“I just want to have a good Christmas,” she says, adding that she visits Santa every year.

“It’s always fun to see him and I like how he’s nice to all the kids,” she says. “It’s just really fun.”

Santa’s next visitor, Clifford, hops up to the chair and jumps onto Santa’s lap.

“Toys?” Santa asks. He nods. “And presents, too?” He nods again.

Santa says toys such as Barbie are always popular.

“The big thing this year is scooters - and Game Boys are big,” he says. “I got a few requests for pogo sticks.”

Santa’s next guest, Kayla, asks if he was flown in on a plane.

He nods. “Santa leaves his reindeer at the North Pole so they will be rested up.”

“So they eat well,” Castellon adds.

“I didn’t know that,” the girl says.

Santa leaves his elves at the North Pole as well.

Bob Cartwell’s friend films him sitting on Santa’s lap for his parents.

“I want a black F-250 four-by-four off-road, turbo diesel super cab - you know, a really big Ford pickup,” the 21-year-old says. “You probably can’t fit that in my stocking, can you?”

Santa says he has had some strange requests.

“A couple weeks ago, I had some ladies on a scavenger hunt from Flint. Part of the scavenger hunt was getting a picture with Santa,” he says. “And a couple young men have asked me if they could put me in a headlock. One was with his family and one had a couple ladies with him.

“Santa don’t do that.”

For the most part, the job is rewarding, he says.

“Sometimes, you get a little baby in your arms,” he says. “Sometimes, kids don’t want to leave. And some older ones show consideration, like one little girl thanked me for taking time to get pictures with her.

“Things like that kind of tickle me.”


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