Santa eagerly greeted child after child on Sunday at Capital Mall, appearing as happy to see them as they were to see him.
"I've got the best gig in the world," he said.
Two of his visitors Sunday afternoon were Natalie Elwood, 8, and her brother Nathan, 5. After asking about their family, their pets and various other things, Santa asked them if they've been good (they had), and what they would like for Christmas. Natalie was hoping for baby dolls and Nathan was holding out hope for all things Mario.
With no one else vying for his attention at the moment, Santa then spent some time reading the siblings "The Night Before Christmas," before giving them candy canes.
Their father, Mike Elwood, said they hadn't planned to see Santa while shopping at the mall. However, when they did, he said his children were determined to sit on his lap and let him know what's on their wish lists.
"Every time we happen to see Santa, we have to go visit," Mike Elwood said. "They love Santa."
Santa said only about 10 percent of the youths who visit him are nervous or afraid.
"But whether they have a meltdown or they're gentle as a lamb, they always put a smile on my face," he said.
Santa's helpers said he's skilled at getting them to warm up to him.
"I think they enjoy talking about personal stuff most: their pets and family life, their siblings," Santa said. "After we get our Christmas stuff done. Usually that's No. 1," he said with a laugh.
He said he's had to brush up on the 2019 toy trends before making his mall appearances. Boys, he said, are into Legos, superheroes, video games, hover boards and scooters. The ones from more rural areas are still excited by things like tractors and BB guns. Girls, on the other hand, are big into L.O.L. dolls this year, he said.
Adena Braden, one of Santa's two helpers at the mall, said Capital Mall is a good location to get some one-on-one time with Santa. Quality face time with the Jolly Old Elf is harder to come by in the big cities, she said.
Braden and another helper take photos of children with Santa, and parents have two package options to buy the photos. Both come with hard copies, as well as digital photos and reproductions rights.
"We take some really good photos with Santa," Braden said. "They're a very good quality, and we make sure you get a good price for what you're receiving."
Santa will continue to make daily appearances at the mall's center court through Dec. 24. His hours are noon-7 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, with a break from 3-3:45 p.m., and 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, with breaks from 1-2 p.m. and 5-6 p.m. On Sundays, he'll be available 11 a.m.-6 p.m., with a break from 2:30-3:30 p.m. On Christmas Eve, he'll be there 9 a.m.-5 p.m., with a break from 1-2 p.m.
Children can come for two special events with Santa. One is breakfast with Santa from 9-10 a.m. this Saturday, and the other is cookies (decorating and eating) with Mrs. Claus from 1-3 p.m. Dec. 8. Both events are free.