Santa Claus was the main attraction Saturday at Southern Plaza, where he arrived in a one-horse drawn carriage with a police escort before listening to the secret Christmas wishes of many good little boys and girls. When Santa didn’t stop at his temporary house on his first lap around the center, 3-yearold Bentley “Bennie” Paul Dilk proclaimed that Santa was going away.
But it wasn’t long before the bearded gent came back into Bennie’s vision, prompting the son of Ashley and Travis Dilk to holler, “I can see him! He’s coming back!” “Bennie came here last year, but he wasn’t quite old enough to understand Santa,” said his grandfather Paul Angelo.
This year he knows all about Santa.” Bennie later told Santa that he wanted a big Lego set and a “gas pump” for his race cars. Shelby Sullivan, the 5-year-old daughter of Mallory Sullivan, pulled her grandfather, Scott Sullivan, out of bed so he would take her to see Santa.
“She’s excited to see him,” he said. “I think she wants some dolls and surprises for Christmas.” Santa’s house, located on the west side of the plaza, 4200 S. East St., has been tastefully decorated and sports a festive Christmas atmosphere. Santa has been a regular at the shopping center since 2001.
That’s when Chris Truran, regional maintenance supervisor of TriLand Properties, which owns the center, renewed the tradition. Truran, the father of three daughters and a grandfather, recalls visiting Santa at Southern Plaza as a youth. Truran said he was fortunate that Blue Ribbon Carriages agreed to provide Santa with a first-class ride, which had a clear canopy. Several parents commented about the carriage: “We like it; it really adds a touch to the festivities.” Truran beams with pride when talking about Santa coming to the center.
“It’s a lot of work, but when you see all these kids and parents (and grandparents), you know it’s worth it. We have added a new touch this year; it’s nice. And our Santa has been doing a great job for 18 years.” There is no charge to visit with Santa, but donations for Hunger Inc. are accepted.
Portraits are available through Expressions by Bev Photography. In addition to Santa being at his house from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturdays and noon-5 p.m. Sundays through Dec. 23, everyone is invited to enjoy donuts with him from 9-11 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 22, at Oak Street Health, also in the plaza.