Santa's lap may be off limits this Christmas as COVID-19 precautions are adopted | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Santa's lap may be off limits this Christmas as COVID-19 precautions are adopted

Kelowna photographer Darren Hull has posted an amazing photo essay featuring Santa Tom Kliner.
Image Credit: Darren Hull
October 25, 2020 - 12:05 PM

Some extra padding around the middle and a beard whitened by time are musts for all good Santa Claus stand-ins.

They are also risk-factors B.C.’s health officials point to when it comes to COVID-19.

For that reason alone, this holiday may be the first time in living memory where St. Nicks have to sit out the season, or at the very least say their ho-ho-hos from a safe, two-reindeer distance.

Kelowna’s Tom Kliner, who is best known as just Santa to the little ones who trundle up to his lap each Christmas, is tapped into a network of 1,000-plus fellow Father Christmases who have been discussing this for months.

“We want to be there for the kids but we don’t want to be the epicentre of an outbreak — not even Santa could survive that,” he said.

“And the age of Santas is an issue — at 61 years old I’m one of the young ones. I’ve been doing this for 21 years now and there are very few years I haven’t come down with a cold. It is a reality. Fortunately, we’re not in a bad hot zone, but the reality is we’re not in the clear yet.”

That said, many hope the show will go on and they have plans in place to ensure seasonal cheer persists.

“Some guys are going to do face shields and masks, a couple are going to do it from plexiglass shield — I can’t see that as being a very welcoming thing — but a lot are still working out the details,” Kliner said.

“Many of the things planned will work for photos but for a visit, it will be harder.”

Masks, he said, already are hard to hear through.

“Again Santas are older and hearing can be an issue,” he said.

Kliner said so far everyone he’s heard from wants to adhere to safety guidelines set out by the provincial health minister, and her counterparts in other parts of the world and for the most part the planned changes should satisfy everyone.

“The wee ones aren’t going to know the difference until they’re older,” he said. “The school-age kids are aware of what’s going on and are already being told to keep their distance and wash their hands. Expectations will be for a different Santa experience, anyway — it is what it is.”

As for Kelowna Christmas events that Kliner is synonymous with, they’re either adapting or being put on hold. 

The biggest event, the Downtown Kelowna Winter Street Market at Stuart Park featuring live entertainment, skating, food and a visit with Santa Tom, will not be happening this year.

"The priority of the DKA is the health and safety of our staff and all who visit Downtown Kelowna. In accordance with Dr. Bonnie Henry’s Order dated Oct. 9, the Downtown Kelowna Association is cancelling the 2020 edition of the Winter Street Market," a post to the association's Facebook page announced last week.

Other events, Kliner said, will be happening without “touching anyone or getting too close.”

A preschool he has a standing date with has an outdoor plan that will see him sitting and discussing Christmas plans from a distance.

“That’s how a lot of events are going to be done, larger tents with Santa is in the background,” he said. “It will mean a lot more parents in the photos this year because the little ones won’t know what to do.”

He knows it will take a bit away from the experience.

“But there are no other options,” he said.

A provincial health order remains in place as the COVID-19 pandemic prevents gatherings larger than 50 people.

 - This story was originally published Oct. 19, 2020.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Kathy Michaels or call 250-718-0428 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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