By Kate Raddatz

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Mackenzie Millard remembers meeting Santa as a child. She’s now 28, and a mom bringing her own children to meet him.

“It’s so magical,” she said. “Everything about it, especially Santa Sid.”

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Santa Sid has been visiting the Mall of America for over two decades. But the magic started 45 years ago, when he was caring for his 3-year-old brother, who passed away from Leukemia. He wanted to do something to bring some joy to children.

“There’s nothing greater than to look at a starry-eyed child that believes,” he said.

Santa Sid has been spreading joy as the man in the big red suit ever since. He’s become so popular, children used to wait hours to sit on his lap. Now, he’s got his own Santa Experience store at the Mall of America. It took just nine hours in October to fill up his appointment book.

But Santa Sid leaves children with a message as their parents stand behind the camera.

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“I always tell kids there’s no greater gift you can give than spending time with them (parents),” he said.

Around 15,000 children will see Santa Sid this Christmas over seven weeks. He says it’s a joy he looks forward to all year long.

“To me, that’s my Christmas.”

Santa Sid is already booked up for this season, but appointments will open for 2020 likely in October.

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The Mall of America also has photos with Santa through Christmas Eve. No appointments are necessary.

Kate Raddatz