New Penticton mall Santa dealing with 'Grinches' after replacing 'naughty' Santa | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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New Penticton mall Santa dealing with 'Grinches' after replacing 'naughty' Santa

Michelle Prystay was at Penticton Santa Gary Haupt's residence last week when they playfully took a few photos with Haupt in his Santa gear. The photos came to the attention of Cherry Lane Shopping Centre management, who later fired Haupt.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED / Facebook

The fallout from the firing of a Penticton shopping centre Santa continued over the weekend with some disgruntled members of the public taking out their frustrations on those remaining on the mall’s Santa set.

Photographer Douglas Drouin noted with dismay a number of Santa visitors over the weekend who weren’t in a very festive mood, as several made disparaging comments about the replacement Santa being a 'fake', loud enough for nearby children to hear.

Comments were also made about staff on the Santa ’set', Drouin noted on a social media posting in which he wished everyone Happy holidays and a Merry Christmas before respectfully asking those involved to “try not to ruin it for the kids.”

Penticton’s Cherry Lane Shopping Centre’s mall Santa was suddenly fired last week after a couple of  photos appeared on social media of “Santa" Gary Haupt acting “naughty” with a couple of female friends, setting off a social media storm largely protesting the man’s dismissal.

Drouin, who has photographed Cherry Lane Mall Santas for four years, was also partnered with Haupt, who had the job last year as well.

He called Haupt “a great guy, very good with families and kids,” and says the new Santa is “a gentle, caring individual who is stepping into some large shoes and doing a wonderful job of it.”

Drouin says he’s trying to distance himself from the “goings on” for personal and professional reasons but said the Santa set was dealing with numerous snide remarks and comments.

“My only statement is we are here for the kids and the families, we are here for the great cause with the hospital foundation. The idea of politicizing such a special time is moderately disheartening but we have a great job to do and we’re going to do it to the best of our abilities,” he says.

Drouin says the Santa set has had to deal with at least “five very visible Grinches.”

“We’re not here for them, so we pay no mind, and direct their complaints toward the administrative office,” he says. “It’s sad to see what happened. It’s about kids, it’s about raising money for the hospital, and we’re all happy to be here to do that."

Former shopping centre Santa Gary Haupt continues to find new venues in the wake of his lost position at Cherry Lane.

Family friend Michelle Prystay says Haupt will be at the High Maintenance Salon and Spa in Summerland, located at 13415 Rosedale Ave. next Sunday, Dec. 8 from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. with proceeds to go to charity.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Steve Arstad or call 250-488-3065 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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