Virtual Santa?

Santa Dave at Plano's Holiday Warehouse // photo Kathy Tran
Santa Dave at Plano's Holiday Warehouse // photo Kathy Tran

DFW Santas Make Plans for Safe Visits with Families in the Era of Coronavirus

After Oct. 31, the world seemingly transforms overnight. Wreaths and lights are installed. Images of Santa can be seen all over the city and all over the internet. Christmas countdowns go up, but really no one wants the season to end too quickly.

Certainly, aspects of the holidays will look quite different this year, as large gatherings and events will not be possible or will be significantly altered. This holds true for Santa’s plans in the DFW metroplex. While some Santa Clauses and venues plan to move forward with social distancing in place, others are going virtual only.

Most Santas are older than 60 years, putting them in the at-risk group for COVID-19. On top of it being possible for them to be exposed to the virus themselves, there is the risk of spread from kid-to-kid as well.

Virtual Santa Visits

David Starr, also known as Santa Dave, is going all-in on virtual Santa visits this year. Because he works in software when he’s not overseeing the North Pole, he said he feels adequately prepared for the season but still went the extra mile to ensure a high-quality, seamless online experience for kids wanting to chat with the big man in red.

“I was worried at first about the Zoom sessions, but the more I learn and play around with it, the more I think this will work out really well,” said Santa Dave, a resident of Plano. “Plus, instead of a fleeting visit, it’ll be a 10- to 15-minute video chat. And I’ll get information from parents ahead of time – like pets’ names, how they did in school, maybe something they need to work on. The kind of thing I can talk to the children about and even make a positive impact through the conversation.”

To prepare for a virtual Christmas season, Santa Dave has taken classes through different Santa organizations. He’s met with other Kris Kringles planning to go virtual this season, and even used his knowledge to help them offer a seamless Zoom experience, too.

Santa Dave and other DFW Santas will offer personalized virtual visits
Santa Dave and other DFW Santas will offer personalized virtual visits // screen courtesy Santa Dave; photo Olga Yastremska

Visiting Santa From a Distance

Plano photographer Misty Hoyt of Photography by Misty has been offering holiday sessions for more than 12 years, originally starting the tradition at the Heritage Farmstead Museum. She is planning ahead for her annual photo sessions of children visiting Santa, with the understanding that things may change in the months to come or even in the middle of the holiday season. Currently, she is scheduled to run nine separate photo sessions with ol’ St. Nick.

“We’re going to do one of two things. We’ll either put Santa in the sleigh and have an at-least-six-feet-away spot where the kids can go to talk to him, or we’ll have Santa in his chair and the kids will have their own area under a Christmas tree or in a chair, and they’ll sit there for pictures and then tell Santa what they want for Christmas,” Misty said.

She and her associates plan to be masked the entire time. So far, they have booked one country club and have multiple Santas they will be working with. She will also be at Legacy West every Saturday in December as well as the Saturday after Thanksgiving. There will be two events in December at Legacy West that will also include a Black Santa Claus.

photo courtesy Photography by Misty
photo courtesy Photography by Misty

An Annual Tradition

The in-person Santa Claus visit is an important tradition for many families. Rachel Yanez, an Allen resident, takes her children every year to get their photos with Santa.

“There’s just something magical that happens in those few minutes when they get to see Santa. Their eyes sparkle and their smiles are as big as they can be, as they ask for that one special toy,” she said.

But the Yanez family is hesitant about in-person pictures this year. For the past three years, they have gone to Santa’s Workshop on the Square in McKinney. She is still unsure what they will decide to do for 2020.

“You have an appointment time and there’s no line. It’s just Santa and one photographer,” Rachel said. “I do think my kids will be disappointed if they don’t get to see him, but I also think they understand enough about the virus that it won’t be heartbreaking if we have to forgo it this year.”

Drive-by Santa

Brent Rasmussen of East Dallas, also known as Santa Brent, does not plan to do any in-person events but wants to get creative with his offerings. Normally, he is busy from the week before Thanksgiving through Christmas Day. He visits homes, schools, day cares, country clubs, churches and parties.

“We sent out an email to all our clients, telling them we would not have a personal visit but give them three options,” Santa Brent said. “One is a snow globe. I’ll be inside the snow globe and families can drive by at a set time to take pictures. One is a drive-by. I’ll drive by where they are and see them from the sidewalk, or they can drive by and see me from the sidewalk. And the other is we have a set meeting spot but stay six feet apart for a quick wave hello.”

Santa Brent is also planning virtual visits for anyone who would like them. So far, a law firm has requested a virtual visit, and he hopes to book some churches and schools.

“There are families we’ve spent Christmas Eve with for 20 years. We won’t get to see them this year, but the bright side is that we will get through this,” Santa Brent said.


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