Penticton Santa is a sudden celebrity after being fired from mall for private photos | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Penticton Santa is a sudden celebrity after being fired from mall for private photos

Penticton Santa Gary Haupt says he is often asked in private photo shoots to stage bad Santa photos. Unfortunately they cost him his job as mall Santa after someone complained.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/Facebook
November 29, 2019 - 5:30 PM

Penticton Santa Claus Gary Haupt is finding the last couple of days “a neat reflective experience” following his termination at Cherry Lane Shopping Centre earlier this week.

Haupt lost his job Wednesday after shopping centre management found out about some light-hearted, mildly racy photos of Haupt in his Santa suit taken with some female acquaintances, at their request.

Haupt has become somewhat of an instant celebrity, making provincial television news in Vancouver yesterday evening, Nov. 28, and fielding calls from a Toronto newsroom this morning.

“I don’t know I’d want to do something like this regularly,” he says of the sudden attention.

Haupt is mostly blown away by the largely positive response to the issue in his favour, indicated by social media postings.

He’s humbled by the support, but says any boycott of the Cherry Lane Shopping Centre should not be considered.

“It’s people’s livelihood at stake, retailers and their staff. They shouldn’t have their income suffer because of a shopping centre management decision. It’s not going to change anything,” Haupt says.

Haupt says he’s received well over 100 personal messages of support from people he doesn’t even know.

The phone has also been ringing with calls from Penticton businesses and groups who want to hire him.

“I’m pretty much booked weekends, I’m booking weekdays now,” he says.

His dismissal from the shopping centre means he can now play Santa for a couple of charitable organizations that he wouldn’t otherwise have been able to.

"I can now do the South Okanagan Women in Need Society’s mother and child Christmas dinner. That means everything,” he says.

Some of Haupt’s new Santa gigs include a visit to Parkway Elementary School, the Barley Mill, Busy Beans Play Cafe, Penticton Elks, Wayne & Freda Coffee Shop, the Shatford Centre Farmer’s Market, The Black Antler, the Dec. 21 Vees hockey game, and Lucky’s Pet Shop.

“He’s always pumped about his job, he absolutely loves it,” Michelle Prystay, a family friend who posed in one of the photos last week, says.

Prystay knows Haupt and his partner, Sharon Nichols quite well, having Nichols as a client for her mobile nail business. She was at the couple’s house last week when Haupt tried his recently dry cleaned Santa suit on.

“He wanted to take some photos. We were just laughing and having fun. We made a couple of quirky little poses and that was it,” she says, adding she and Haupt are social media types and agreed to post the photos in fun.

She says the community has since bonded together over social media in support of Haupt.

“We all know him. Kids love him, he’s like the kid whisperer as a Santa. The social media response has been a domino effect of positivity - there have only been a few negative comments,” she said, adding she was working with Haupt and a photographer to "bring Santa back.”

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.
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

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