By Bill Hudson, WCCO-TV
BLOOMINGTON, Minn. (WCCO) — When you sit down with Santa at the Mall of America, you’re sitting down with Sid.
“I had a little one that saw a nametag that said Sid on it, and he said, ‘That means Santa In Disguise.'”
He’s been a part of Christmas at Minnesota’s largest Mall for the last 15 years. He works every day from early November through Christmas Eve, starting early in the morning and staying late at night. And it’s clearly a labor of love.
“I am the hairspray king,” he said while getting started for the day at one of the Mall’s beauty salons. “They all know how to do the Santa ‘do.”
And with one last spray, Santa is on his way, ready to get down to business at the Santa Experience. But this business is definitely a labor of love. Sid actually negotiates extra vacation time from his real job to make time for this one.
“When you have this love, it’s not something you take off. You live it,” he said.
In fact, Sid’s own home has a special Santa Room. It’s got lights, decorations, a tree and boxes full of letters he’s received over the last 15 years. All of them.
Sid also has his own Mrs. Claus — Mollie, who’s actually a bit of a Christmas widow because of his schedule.
“I schedule time for lunches or dinners,” she said. “Because that’s the only time I get to see him is actually going to the Mall and scheduling a lunch or dinner with him.”
But that doesn’t mean she’s lost the Christmas Spirit. In fact, just the opposite.
“The child in me comes out when I even think of him and the time that he spends with the children,” she said.
And it turns out the children all represent one child.
“I lost a brother to leukemia,” said Sid. “And that’s what got me on the road to Santa.”
Sid’s brother Patrick was only 3-and-a-half when he died. That left 16-year-old Sid wondering what he could do to cheer up other kids at the hospital. Then he had an idea — to visit children at the hospital.
“Picked up a cheap suit, and went out and had fun,” he said.
And 40 years later, he’s still having fun. He’s a fixture at the 2nd largest mall in the country where this year’s run will end on Christmas Eve. But that’s also when the countdown to next year begins.
“Santa’s iPhone tells me exactly how many days I have left to go,” he said. “And its fun, I love it. So I have a countdown all the time. I look forward to my time at the Mall.”
WCCO-TV’s Bill Hudson Reports