For the first time in its 24-year history, Mall of America in Bloomington, Minn., had a black Santa on hand to help spread holiday cheer Thursday.
“This is a long time coming,” Landon Luther, co-owner of the Santa Experience, which has run an intimate photo studio at the mall for years, told the Star Tribune. “We want Santa to be for everyone, period.”
Customers at the Mall of America have two Santa options to choose from: They can wait in line with everyone else at the mall for the free Santa, or they can book an appointment with the Santa Experience.
The Star Tribune reports that Luther conducted a national search last spring for a Santa to whom children of color would be able to relate. Santa Sid, who has worked at the Mall of America for 20 years, met Larry Jefferson of Irving, Texas, at a Santa convention in Branson, Mo. Of the 1,000 Santa impersonators in attendance, Jefferson was the only black one.
“It was like finding a needle in a haystack,” Luther said.
Jefferson, dressed as Santa Larry, will greet children, pass out candy and pose for photographs by appointment only from Thursday to Sunday.
Jefferson said that children are rarely fazed at meeting a black Santa.
“What they see most of time is this red suit and candy,” Jefferson said. “Santa represents a good spirit. I’m just a messenger to bring hope, love and peace to girls and boys. Anybody can be Santa; it’s what’s in your heart.”
Read more at the Star Tribune.