Santa receives gift of his own

COSTA MESA — In Don White's line of business, nothing is more important than quality leg support.

Fortunately for the Santa impersonator, who has about nine years of private events and shopping center holiday gigs under his belt buckle, South Coast Plaza brought in a new Santa's Village set complete with a plush, green chair.

"I love this set and the chair is awesome," White said in between young guests climbing onto his lap for photos. "My legs feel great with this chair."

The center's holiday setup that includes the photo stage with Santa, a children's craft zone and a made-over carousel — where the traditional ponies have been swapped out for prancing reindeer — sees about 90,000 guests each year.

South Coast Plaza completely redid the Santa's Village stage and backdrop this year and also upgraded much of the surrounding decorations.

While the sets are given a fresh look each holiday season, it's been more than a decade since an entirely new set was designed, said Debra Gunn Downing, executive director of marketing for the Costa Mesa shopping center.

"We're always looking for the very best in everything we do to deliver a phenomenal customer experience," Gunn Downing said. "We felt it was time for an enhanced set."

The 300-square-foot set, which is roughly the same size as the previous one, was inspired by classic Ralph Lauren designs and features a cozy interior, decorated holiday tree, illuminated faux fireplace and snowy winter scene, she said.

Santa's Village is open daily during standard shopping center hours; however, the best time to go is early on the weekdays.

Seal Beach resident Kendra Day tried taking her 19-month-old son, Parker, to see Santa on Sunday, but lines wrapped around Carousel Court.

However, it would be Parker's second year with Santa and the photo was worth returning for, she said Monday morning while waiting in a short line.

"It's part of the holiday season to go see Santa," she said. "It's special. It's about the memories and it's just a part of growing up."

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