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School just started again in many parts of the country, but people are already making plans for holiday cheer. Several companies across the country that book events with Santa are already encouraging people to sign up for virtual or socially distant events.
JingleRing, a newly formed company that does virtual visits with Santa, is offering “limited spots” now for bookings. “It's safe, super-fun, affordable and personalized for your family,” the company says on its website. Pricing options start at $20 for a personalized pre-recorded video message and $25 for a live virtual visit with Santa. “That’s almost 50 percent less than the national average for a Santa mall photo package,” Walt Geer, CEO & co-founder of JingleRing, tells Yahoo Life.
JingleRing officially opens for bookings on Nov. 1, but Geer says they’ve been getting emails from customers since August. “Based on what we’re seeing, it’s about to get real busy,” he says.
Abby Buell, a marketer for the RWS Entertainment Group, which does stage shows and holiday installations and experiences, tells Yahoo Life that, while the pandemic has closed down some of their major holiday activations, the company “is able to go back to its roots of offering safe and distanced human experiences” through “virtual and in-person performance.” The company is also still able to offer activations at theme parks, retail centers, municipalities, hotels and other areas, Buell says.
But the holiday business can be tricky this year for professional Santas. While Daniel Thompson, a Santa in Southern California, tells Yahoo Life that some people have been booking visits earlier than usual this year, his bookings are still about 25 percent of what they usually are at this time.
Thompson, who normally does a mix of visiting holiday parties, theme parks, company gatherings and senior centers dressed as St. Nick, says he’s “been in contact with the vast majority of my past customers, and some of them have canceled outright,” noting that some counties in California have banned large gatherings, making his typical visits nearly impossible. “Some of the events that I’ve done in the past have been canceled, including visits for seniors,” he says. “We don’t want to take any chances there.”
Thompson is focusing a lot on virtual visits this year, and that’s been a perk for some people. “I have one gentleman who tried to book me for the last five years and I’ve always been booked up. This year, he was able to book me,” Thompson says. “It’s good for him and good for me.”
Photographers are also seeing plenty of interest around holiday shoots. “I had families asking me about Christmas card shoots months ago,” Alexis Mears, a photographer in Delaware, tells Yahoo Life.
Mears says she’s noticed an uptick in photo shoots that are focused on families since the pandemic began. “I feel like people are valuing family more now after everything,” she says. Mears did shoots for families at the beach this summer and said that “almost every single one” featured “enormous families.”
“Everybody said, ‘We finally got to slow down and we need pictures because we’re finally together,’” she says.
Mears expects her Christmas card shoots to sell out this year. She plans to be masked the entire time, and will only have her subjects remove their masks for the photos. “They’ll come in, do their shots and go,” she says.
Thompson says it can be challenging to spread holiday cheer this year, but he plans to do his best. “I’m just trying to look on the bright side,” he says. “I may not be able to see everybody face to face, but I’ll still be able to communicate with the children and their families. That’s something.”
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