SUN PRAIRIE, Wis. (WMTV) - Jolly Old Saint Nick is canceling visits to many stores across the country. Some local malls and stores in south central Wisconsin are adding a twist to that holiday tradition.

“We want to keep Santa healthy as he’s going back and forth to the north pole,” Cabela’s General Manager Jennifer Anderson said. Santa stops by Cabela’s in Sun Prairie every day. “We try to make it as face to face as we can,” Anderson said.

Anderson is one of many treading carefully on Santa visits this year. At Cabela’s, only five families are allowed in, every 15 minutes to visit with Kris Kringle. Families must sign up online beforehand.

All visitors are instructed to sit behind the Plexiglass in between them and Santa, and it’s wiped down in between visits.

“We are not doing an in-person Santa this year, but we’re planning something different,” Uptown Janesville Marketing and Events Coordinator Jamie Balsiger said.

Santa is calling on some additional helpers in Janesville. At Uptown Janesville, characters like Olaf, Buddy the Elf and the Grinch are stepping up. Holiday characters will be in various empty storefront windows around the mall to take pictures with.

“Families do like to take photos with Santa and go shop, that’s why I’m hoping this new program can still give people that experience,” Balsiger said.

Whether it’s a storefront photo op or sharing a wish list from a distance, everyone is looking to spread some much-needed holiday cheer.

“Our biggest thing for Santa is that outlet for the families,” Anderson said. “We’re excited to have Santa and we’re looking forward to having everyone through the holiday season.”

There could also be an economic effect to all of this. Uptown Janesville reports 3,000-5,000 mall Santa visitors over the last two years, many sticking around to shop. They’re anticipating the move could impact revenue

Santa will add stops at West Towne and East Towne mall in Madison starting on black Friday, with COVID-19 safety precautions and online sign ups. Hilldale in Madison will not have Santa visit in person. Instead, they are constructing virtual station for shoppers to see what Santa is up to at the North Pole as he prepares for Christmas Eve.

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