LUMBERTON — For more than 15 years, Jamie and her husband Ricky Parker have been photographing Santa at Biggs Park Mall in Lumberton through the month of December and this year is no different.
Yet, according to Jamie, no year is the same.
“Literally, during the whole season, we probably do a little over 1,000 kids,” said Jamie, who took over day-to-day management of the business with the help of her 20-year-old son, Parker Coleman, after her husband’s retirement in 2006. “Probably more than that, actually. We do it for a month straight.”
From 5 to 8 p.m. during the week, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday and 1 to 5 p.m. on Sunday until Christmas Eve, the center of Biggs Park Mall is transformed into a miniature winter wonderland, replete with reindeer and snow. Families and children of all ages are invited to take part in the holiday ritual of having their photograph taken with Santa Claus.
“It gets crazier the closer we get to Christmas,” said mall manager Chelsea Biggs. “I get phone calls every day from people asking about when he’ll be up here … It is going to be really busy here on Christmas Eve, but that’s what we like.”
Over the years, the Parkers have seen countless young faces light up in response to meeting Santa. However, one experience stands out in Jamie’s mind.
“This little boy comes up dressed in a homemade Santa suit of his own, with cotton-balls for a beard, and wearing his dad’s Christmas boxers,” said Jamie. “His legs were so short that they looked like pants on him.”
Jamie says that the image was so touching that she decided to keep a copy of the photo that they had taken for herself. “He was so excited to sit on Santa’s knee,” she said.
A single photo with Santa costs $10, with a full package of photos costing $38.
We sat down with ol’ Saint Nick himself to ask him about his experiences this year at the Biggs Park Mall.
Q&A with Santa
The Robesonian: What have been the most popular gift requests this year among boys and girls?
Santa Claus: This year, it has honestly been a surprise. There are a lot of kids not giving long lists this year, but they have been asking for mostly electronics. You hear the words “tablet,” “DS,” and “Wii U” thrown around. “Laptop computer” is a popular request of course. As far as the dolls go, the biggest one this year is, as usual, Barbie though there are a lot of requests for Baby Alive.
With the boys, however, you still hear about the four wheelers and the motorcycles, the superheroes. A lot of boys asking for Spider-Man, not as much for Batman, and of course video games.
The Robesonian: Have you had any unusual requests this year?
Santa Claus: I suppose that I’ve been lucky this year. I haven’t had anyone that asked for mom and dad to get back together. I haven’t had any about someone having died who they wanted back or someone in prison.
I have had a lot of them that want a real Rudolph of their own. I have a lot of live pet requests and of course my answer with that is always “what do mom and dad say about that?” and they always say “they say no.”
I guess the only one that was unusual was a little boy from Lumberton. I asked him if he wanted a girlfriend and he said “no!” I asked why and he said “I already got one.” This really surprised his mother, so I asked, “well, do you want another one?” and he responded “I already got another one!” It turned out this little boy could name three girlfriends who his mother knew nothing about. He was a real lady’s man.
The Robesonian: What would you describe as your favorite part of the job?
Santa Claus: Oh well, my favorite part of course are the reactions from the children. The ones that smile and really respond and are very talkative and the ones that want to give Santa a hug. And of course the smiles. Oh and the little babies who like to cuddle up to Santa. That is kind of neat. Really, just all of their reactions and their smiles make the job worthwhile.
The Robesonian: Do you have a favorite Christmas song this year?
Santa Claus: Well, I have to say my favorite one tends to be oriented to the real man of Christmas. Nowadays so many people don’t believe in Christmas at all, it is “happy holidays” not “merry Christmas.” My favorite though is “Beautiful Star of Bethlehem” and I sing it a lot. For the kids however, they always love “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.”
Of course really my favorite song has always been “Christmas in Dixie.” You know the song? It is a real easy going song about family and things like that. It has to have been around for 18 years. It just makes you think of the way things used to be, about going to grandma’s, warm fires and snow.