Photos courtesy of Regan Communications Group
The scene is typical for the South Shore Plaza during the Christmas season, a bearded Santa Claus sitting in a red, velvet chair, photographer at the ready to capture the special moment.
But this year, Santa will have Lassie as well as Johnny on his lap, as the Plaza gets ready to reprise a popular feature. For the past four years, the Plaza staff has designated a time for locals to come and get their pet’s picture taken with the mythical figure.
“We’ve had people bring cats and snakes and things like that. We don’t want anything too bizarre, but it is extremely popular,” said mall manager Vicki Bartkiewicz. “I think we started it about four years ago and it grew to the point where we had to add more days.”
This year, the festivities will occur every Sunday from Nov. 18 through Dec. 16, with the Santa set-up for pet owners scheduled from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. – after the mall is closed. However, if there are pets are on hand, photographers have offered to start snapping shots at 6 p.m.
Especially as the Christmas holiday looms nearer, mall employees are expecting lines to be long.
“Dog owners are procrastinators, so they tend to wait till the last minute, so we can have as many as 60-70 dogs in a line the closer it gets to Christmas,” Bartkiewicz said.
Approximately 200 pet people are expected to make their way to the plaza this season for the photo opportunity, and housekeeping will be on call to clean up any spills or messes associated with the event.
Pets should be on leashes, or if they are more skittish, in cages.
The past years have produced some memorable images. One stand-out photo-op was a woman who brought her five dogs for a group photo with Santa. Each of the dogs was wearing a costume.
Another time, someone brought a very large snake.
“I didn’t see this one, but they did say that someone came with a big boa constrictor that was quite large, and it was there with Santa with it cradled around his shoulder. Though I don’t think the snake was in costume,” Bartkiewicz said.
Although the event will take place after mall hours this year, in previous years the event has become an attraction for shoppers.
“It’s funny, because when we were doing it when the mall is open, people would just stop. They didn’t come with a pet or anything, but it’s like babies, you have to smile. They are cute,” Bartkiewicz said. “So it’s quite an attraction. And I think basically it grew because of word of mouth.”
Photographs will take place in the Nordstrom Wing on the first level. For more information, visit the mall’s website.