Ho Ho Hum: Fewer mall Santas this year because of pandemic risk

Experts say there are fewer Santas in malls and public places this year, and they say it's all because of COVID-19.
State Rep. Billy Mo Buckbee (New Milford) has been dressing up in the big red suit for decades.
"It's about the tradition, it's about that joy that you see in their eyes, that's the magic of Christmas and it's an unbelievable feeling when children believe in you, and they just want to have that few moments to talk to you," said Buckbee.
Buckbee says there is a drop in numbers because of the pandemic.
"You have these older gentleman who are concerned about COVID, rightly so, or don't want to interact and the malls don't want to have that liability either, so these guys are without work and a lot of them are retired gentlemen," he said.
Buckbee says he's been able to send personalized video messages to the kids so they can still have a Father Christmas connection.
Mitch Allen with Hire Santa places Santa's helpers around the world. He says there are 10% fewer but the demand is up over 120%. He says the decline is definitely COVID-related.
"They're at a high risk for a negative outcome if they get COVID and then unfortunately, we lost a number of Santa Claus entertainers over the last 18 months," said Allen.
Last year, Santas wore a face mask behind plexiglass. This year, kids can see them socially distanced.
Buckbee says he's trying to make sure he stays healthy so he can continue to deliver that holiday magic.
Local stores say safety is their top priority for families visiting Saint Nick.