LIMA — Madelynn Harshbarger, 9, was the first to sit on Santa’s lap at the Lima Mall Saturday.
“Yeah, we got the first ticket. We were excited. She went out and picked out a dress and an outfit so she could get her pictures with Santa. She’s a happy little girl right now, said Madelynn’s mother, Chrystal Harshbarger.
Santa’s arrival at the mall marked the beginning of the holiday season for some.
He arrived just after 10 a.m. thanks to the American Township Fire Department, who gave him a ride, while his reindeer, reportedly, were parked in a field north of town.
“He comes in on the fire truck every year, so that’s exciting for the kids,” said Betsy Billingsley, marketing director for the Lima Mall.
Prior to his arrival, dancers from the Center Stage Dance Academy in Ottawa entertained the crowd.
“This is how we start our season, and with Santa arriving, it just really brings in the holiday spirit to the mall,” said Billingsley.
Of course, there’s plenty of chances to get your child’s picture taken with Santa.
“Pictures are available for purchase,” Billingsley said. “The packages start at $24.99, and we also offer a Fast Pass where they can skip the line. For an additional fee, they can schedule their own time. Otherwise, come on in during Santa hours and say hi.”
There will be opportunities for those children who have difficulties functioning in a louder environment to have some quiet moments with Santa coming up.
“Our sensitive Santa is Sunday, Dec. 2 from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. before the mall opens. It’s a low-key event — no lighting, no strobes, no music for kids that are sensitive to that sort of thing, and their families of course. This year, we’ll have the Welcome Waggers therapy dogs from Mercy Health. They will be coming just to give the kids an extra spot to kind of unwind before they met the big man,” said Billingsley.
“We also have pet photos. Our pet photo night is Sunday from 6 to 8 p.m. and there’s another one on Dec. 9th from 6 to 8 p.m. for the furry friends of the family. Everybody can get their picture taken. So that’s always fun. The dogs are in tutus and all kinds of good holiday wear, so we have a good time with that,” said Billingsley.
With Sears no longer at the mall, management has stepped up and brought in other businesses.
“We do have some really great local stores that are actually here now,” Billingsley said. “The Primitive Shoppe just opened their bigger store over the summer. It’s doing very well. We’re super excited about that, and we have a lot of holiday tenants, some that have been here before and some that are new, so we’re really excited about how full we are this year.”
Prior to the arrival of Santa, the Salvation Army kicked off its annual Kettle Drive. They hope to raise $120,000 this year.
The bell ringers are now out at many of the larger retailers, including The Lima Mall.
Reach Sam Shriver at 567-242-0409.