virtual santa

Santa’s usual stop at the James Memorial Art Center after the Holiday Lights Parade had to be canceled for safety reasons, but the man in red is still sharing some cheer with the James’ patrons, and he’s bringing the missus along, too.

For years the James has hosted Warm Up After Light Up, inviting hundreds of people into the building to enjoy cookies, cocoa, music and some time with St. Nick himself. The gallery is filled with children lining up for their turn to sit on Santa’s lap, share their Christmas wishes, and get their picture taken.

With the pandemic putting a halt to large events and gatherings, Santa was disappointed that he would miss out on his yearly visit, but the James and the Williston Community Library came together to form a plan on how to keep the Jolly Old Elf connected to his fans.

The James set up a special mailbox and have been collecting letters for the last few weeks. Beginning the week of Thanksgiving, Santa will be taking to the James’ Facebook and YouTube pages to read some of those letters, and share some special messages with the kids. While he may not be appearing in person, James Board Vice President Deana Novak said Santa was determined to share the Christmas Spirit all the same.

“We really wanted to have Santa involved somehow, since we weren’t able to have Warm Up,” Novak told the Williston Herald. “We know it’s sort of disappointing for the kids, not being able to interact with Santa as they usually do, but we talked to him came up with a plan so the kids can still see him.”

Novak said the James would be sharing three videos from Santa throughout the week, with Mr. Kringle reading letters, Christmas stories and offering some personalized messages to his viewers. For those kids who didn’t get their letters read, or missed the deadline for delivery, the James is still accepting letters to Santa until Dec 14. While he won’t read them on video, Santa will send a written response to any letters collected. Novak said all that is needed is a self-addressed stamped envelope to accompany the letter.

Santa won’t be the only one visiting the James over Thanksgiving, Mrs. Claus will be stopping by to do some crafts as well. Once again, in lieu of an in-person workshop, Mrs. Claus will be appearing on video via Facebook and YouTube to show kids how to create their very own Santa advent calendar.

Mrs. Claus appears yearly at the Williston Community Library, sharing holiday stories and songs and spending time with young library patrons. Library Director Andrea Placher, who serves on the James board as well, was kind enough to ask Mrs. Claus to stop by the Art Center as well.

“I happen to know some people, and I was able to pull some strings.” Placher joked. “Mrs. Claus was of course very excited to help out and share some holiday cheer, especially this year.”

The James will have printouts of the advent calendar available at the building for pickup, courtesy of the library. The James Memorial Art Center is located at 621 First Ave. W. Gallery hours are Monday-Thursday 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Friday 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Follow the James Memorial and Williston Community Library to stay up-to-date on all their happenings events at facebook.com/JamesMemorialArtCenter and facebook.com/WillistonCommunityLibrary.

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