Sensitive, with a renowned love for children.
He is arguably one of the most famous men in the world, and he drew a crowd Saturday when he arrived by train, among elves, at Valley Mall.
Santa Claus rang in the holidays with the clang of the train bell, chugging down the vestibule to Center Court, which is decorated during the holiday season in a train-themed motif dubbed Valley Mall Junction.
Jessica Straley, 6, of Upton, Pa., was first in a long, winding line of children who were waiting for some face time with Mr. Claus. Dressed in her Christmas best, Jessica said she planned to put in a request for an Easy-Bake Oven and some Barbies.
Her mother, Annette Straley, said Jessica has been afraid of Santa and cried in past years. But this year, she seemed more confident.
Thomas Naylor of Mercersburg, Pa., and his girlfriend, Connie Eccard, took their children, Xander Naylor, 6 months, and Jordan Fox, 3, to get their pictures taken. Naylor said Jordan asked for a dollhouse, games, ninja turtles and some surprises, while Xander just sat with Santa and “chilled.”
“This seems a little early, but it’s cool. When we were kids, Santa didn’t come until Black Friday,” Naylor said. “But it’s nice and it brings a lot of people to the mall.”
Eccard was excited to frame the children’s pictures in a fiber-optic lighted frame she had purchased at the junction.
Brothers Tyler and Zane Dewarf, 6 and 4, of Inwood, W.Va., wore complementary striped sweaters for the photo. Tyler hoped for baseballs, a racetrack, a trip to Disney World and “that’s all,” he said. He went on to speak for his younger brother, putting in an order for a ball and bat and a remote-control train.
Their mother, Katie Dewarf, said she has taken the boys to Valley Mall to see Santa in past years.
“I like the presentation, the way they make a big scene with the train,” she said. “The boys are into trains, and it looks so real.”
Balls were popular this year, as Blaire Ray, 5, of Hancock, ordered a basketball and hoop for himself and some balls for his younger brother, Bailei Ray. He also had an altruistic plea.
“I want everyone in the whole wide world to have a toy because not everyone has a family,” he said.
Addie Petrill, 6, of Hagerstown, won the distinct honor of riding between Mr. and Mrs. Claus on the seat of the train during their entrance. She had written a letter addressing why she was the right candidate through a moms’ group. She informed Santa that she helps take care of her baby sister and does very well in kindergarten.
Besides landing the prize, she received a stocking large enough for her to fit in that was full of treats. Though Addie is hoping for some accessories including a closet and clothes for her American Girl doll, she said she didn’t do much talking to Santa on the train.
“I just followed directions,” Addie said. “I had to wave and I had to smile big.”