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Even North Pole Not Immune To Pandemic: Arizona Santa Company Working Fewer Events

The coronavirus pandemic has hurt many industries, and the North Pole was not immune. 

Mark Brenneman, the owner of Santa Claus and Company, estimates that business is down by about 70% due to cancellations of corporate events and family parties. In addition, a third to half of the 30-35 Santa Claus, Mrs. Claus and elf actors that work for Brenneman have told him they’re sitting this season out. Many of these folks are older or considered at high risk for COVID, Brenneman said. 

“So while I have a much lower number of jobs to do, I have fewer people to do the jobs so it’s balancing out there," he said. 

The company is taking precautions to protect the actors that are working. They're all wearing face shields so families can still see the twinkle in Santa’s eye while staying safe. During photos, kids have to sit on a bench alone or with their parents six feet away from Santa instead of on his lap. 

"That’s what I miss the most," Brenneman said. "I miss holding the babies and baby’s first Christmas, and just cuddle them and let the parents get a picture of the child with Santa, you know. We can’t do it though. We can’t take a risk.”   

Brenneman, 70, has been playing Santa since 1972. He said he plans to continue to playing Santa for in-person and virtual events this Christmas season to provide the community with some hope during these difficult times.

→  Get The Latest News On COVID-19 In Arizona 

Rocio Hernandez was a senior field correspondent at KJZZ from 2020 to 2022.