Santa not taking any chances

Santa has traded in his cookies and milk for hand sanitizer this year.

Santa sanitizes his hands after meeting with local children.

Santa has traded in his cookies and milk for hand sanitizer this year.

At the Bower Place Shopping Centre in Red Deer the area where the jolly old elf sits has a new hand sanitizer station at the bottom of the ramp up to see him.

Darcy Notland, owner of Digital D Photography, who employs Santa at the shopping centre, said this year they’ve paid more attention to the details, with H1N1 flu going around.

“I think the biggest thing for us is just trying to do our part to show the public that we’re doing (what we can), within reason, to keep the place clean and sanitary,” Notland said. “Santa has always worn gloves. Santa continues to wear gloves and he changes those out on a daily basis.”

Notland said Santa doesn’t want to discourage anyone from dropping by to see him and at the end of the day he is there for the kids.

“Santa, from my knowledge, hasn’t had his H1N1 shot yet. I think mostly just because there hasn’t been the Santa category for the vaccination clinics. Hopefully we can make it through. We’re one week done and hopefully we can make it the rest of the way.”

Shantelle Mahowich, of Innisfail, brought her daughter Arianna, one year three months old, to see Santa Claus for the first time on Saturday. The little girl seemed to enjoy the candy cane she received the most.

Mahowich wasn’t concerned about taking her little one to see Santa with the flu that is going around.

“You’ve kind of just got to work with it, right. It’s going to happen eventually. Eventually you’re going to get it,” Mahowich said.

She thinks her and her daughter may have already had the H1N1 flu. “It’s kind of like your own little booster. Now we have immunity,” she said.

The Santa area at Bower Place Shopping Centre draws around 250 children a day, hoping to share their Christmas wishes. During the months of November and December last year the shopping centre drew just under one million people.

The mall has also stepped up precautions with hand sanitizer stations placed throughout the facility. However, Joelle Brown, marketing director at Bower Place Shopping Centre, said much of the cleaning they do has always been part of the mall’s mandate, including cleaning the kiddie carts at guest services thoroughly after each use and having people clean up the food area constantly.

H1N1 vaccination clinics are open to all Albertans starting today. A clinic is scheduled at Westerner Park’s Harvest Centre from 12:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. today and from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesday.

For more clinic information go to www.albertahealthservices.ca or bprda.wpengine.com.

sobrien@bprda.wpengine.com

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