Santa Village, a holiday tradition in Grand Forks, opens Monday, Dec. 14, in the former Lane Bryant store just west of Target on 32nd Avenue South, said Lynn Roche, recreation and special events manager with the Grand Forks Park District.
The Santa Village, which normally is housed in the Lincoln Golf Course clubhouse, was moved to a new location because of the pandemic. The new location allows for more social distancing, Roche said. Santa and Mrs. Claus are planning to be on hand at certain times.
“Some of the school kiddoes, they live for it,” she said.
Guests are asked to bring a canned food item to be donated to a food pantry, a new toy for the Community Violence Intervention Center or a monetary donation.
Santa Village hours are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday through Dec. 22.
Santa and Mrs. Claus will be onsite from 1 to 5 p.m. Dec. 18-22. Children won’t be able to sit on Santa’s lap, but can gather nearby for photos or to hear Mrs. Claus read a Christmas story.
Families are welcome to take pictures of their kids at Santa Village, which is a sparkling wonderland, filled with nearly 60 beautifully and cleverly decorated Christmas trees, each with its own theme -- the Grinch Who Stole Christmas, the Lion King, Mickey Mouse, a gingerbread house and even Halloween -- and three upside-down trees.
“Some kids don’t even have a tree,” she said.
Though they won’t be able to make crafts and participate in other activities that filled the hours at Santa Village in the past, kids will be able to meet Santa and Mrs. Claus in a cozy corner near a fireplace.
As they leave, they’ll also receive hot chocolate, a Santa hat and bag and a couple of crafts, cookies and candy.
"They get a pretty good haul,” Roche said.
Mask-wearing and social-distancing will be required, and the number of guests will be limited to 100 at a time, she said. Also, staff members will be disinfecting frequently touched surfaces regularly.
Roche has watched people of all ages -- from newborn to 100 years old -- enjoy Santa Village in the past, and she hopes people will find their way to this new location, she said.
“They say, ‘If you build it, they will come'," she said. “It’s kind of magical in here.”