BRIDGEWATER, NJ - A pandemic isn't keeping Safe Santa away from the Bridgewater Commons Mall.
A Safe Santa Celebration will welcome children of all ages for a safe and socially distanced visit and photos with a re-imagined no-touch walk-through experience, according to a release.
The Safe Santa Celebration, in the center court on the mall's lower level, will begin Nov. 16, and last through Dec. 24. Those wishing to attend will be required to wear a face mask and make an appointment in advance.
Beginning Nov. 1, shoppers can visit the Bridgewater Commons Mall website at www.bridgewatercommons.com to book a reservation. Families will be able to enter their child's first name, and also have the chance to include special gifts straight from their wish lists.
In addition, select hours have been reserved for live Virtual Santa appointments via Zoom.
"We have gone to remarkable lengths to re-imagine the tradition of visiting Santa this year and ensure the annual family event does not disappoint," Bridgewater Commons Senior General Manager Troy Fischer said in the release. "Safe Santa Celebration, designed with no touch points and advanced technologies, promises to not only keep both our guests and Santa himself safe, but deliver a one-of-a-kind personalized experience like no other from start to finish. We look forward to beginning the amazement as the holiday shopping season nears."
The celebration will be set among 25 garland-topped light curtains, all adorned with more than 10,000 white glistening lights, as well as candy cane inspired twists. An authentic Kris Kringle will sit in his grand velvet chair on an elevated platform, set 7 feet behind guests.
When guests enter, they will find the holiday-themed sanitizing station.
Check-in will follow so Santa knows his guests have arrived, and then he will greet each girl and boy with their actual names and what they are wishing for this year. In addition, a special Bridgewater Commons custom Santa-COM solution will allow for voices to be amplified.
"We're quite literally not sitting on Santa's lap this year," Bridgewater Commons Marketing Director Tom Kovacic said in the release. "Rather we're encouraging safe and responsible visits to the North Pole where our novel holiday installation ingeniously marries the long-time tradition of a one-on-one interaction with Santa with a physically-distant experience."
On Dec. 3, in conjunction with International Day of Persons with Disabilities, and in partnership with The Arc of New Jersey Family Institute, the Safe Santa Celebration will open prior to mall operating hours for kids with special needs.
There will also be pet photos allowed every Monday from Nov. 16 through Dec. 16, 5 p.m. to closing.
Touchless point of purchase will be available as well.
In terms of the times for the celebration, it will be open, Nov. 16 through Dec. 17, Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. for virtual appointments, then for regular appointments Monday through Thursday from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m.; Friday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Sunday from noon to 6 p.m.; Dec. 4 from noon to 8 p.m.; and Dec. 5 from noon to 4 p.m.
From Dec. 18 through Dec. 23, there will be virtual appointments 10 a.m. to noon Monday through Wednesday, and regular appointments noon to 8 p.m. Monday through Wednesday, and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday through Sunday. On Dec. 24, it will be open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
In terms of safety guidelines, masks are required for all guests and employees; there will be enhanced cleaning and disinfecting of all surfaces; hand sanitizing stations will be available; and social distancing will be encouraged.