Still jolly, after all these years

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
He knows if you’ve been naughty, he also knows if you’ve been nice. Santa visits with children Saturday at the Crossroads Mall to hear their last minute wishes. Santa will be at the mall today from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. when he has to return to the North Pole until next year.

If the wishes of those who have made the “nice” list this year are, in fact, fulfilled by Santa this year, his sleigh cargo is going to resemble a surrealist mix of multi-colored plastic arsenal and a hatchery.

That’s his conclusion after several weeks of visiting with children at the Crossroads Mall.

“They’re asking for Nerf guns and Hatchimals,” Santa said. “At least half of them want those.”

Some of the other half of the “nice” list children are asking for tablets — Santa is of course giving that gift-giving idea a thumbs up, just not quite in the way they might imagine.

“I ask them what type of paper they want, white or yellow. Do they want the 26-sheet or the 64-sheet one? Do they want a pencil or a pen?” Santa said. “I get a lot of thumbs up from parents.”

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
Ava Orth, 2, of Fort Dodge, seems a lot less excited about spending time with Santa at the Crossroads Mall Saturday than her brother Hayden Orth, 3, did.

Todd Constable, of Fort Dodge, brought his son, Joe Constable, to visit with the Jolly Old Elf on Saturday.

It’s a family tradition.

“I don’t think we’ve ever missed a year,” Todd Constable said.

Santa can extract critical intel about children’s wish lists that their parents may not have a high enough level of security to obtain.

It’s magic.

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
Santa tries to coax a smile from Zaelie Rexroat, 2, of Stanhope as she visits Santa with her little brother Klaydin Rexroat, 3 months.

“They don’t tell us what they want,” Constable told Santa, “but they tell you what they want.”

This, of course, is mutually beneficial. After all, not every present under the tree is from Santa. Parents, grandparents, siblings and friends get to give them too. Eavesdropping on the conversation with Santa is considered perfectly acceptable by the National Institute of Santa, which sets guidelines for interactions with Santa.

Barrett Eilander, 2, of Bondurant, came to visit with Santa with his mom, Jenna Nemitz.

They’ve made the visit before.

“I have pictures of being here,” she said.

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
Members of the Martinson family, from Fort Dodge, keep Dan “Roscoe” O’Neil busy behind the camera Saturday as they stop in for their annual family photo with Santa. They’ve been following the tradition since 1984.

While the secret whisperings may have been out of hearing range, she shared what her son was planning to ask for.

“He loves choo choo trains,” she said. “Choo choo trains and blocks, anything he can build with.”

Her own list was short.

“I just want a Merry Christmas,” she said. “Just quality time with my family.”

Many area residents have expressed concern to Santa about the lack of snow cover in the area.

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
Todd Constable, of Fort Dodge, along with his son, Joe Constable, 8, visit with Santa Saturday at the Crossroads Mall.

“The sleigh has special runners on it,” Santa said. “They are capable of safe, soft and very quiet landings on all roofing surfaces. In addition, the reindeer have special hoof covers made from the same material so they’re also safe, soft and quiet.”

Rudolph, along with rest of the crew, are in tip top shape.

“They’ve been working out,” Santa said. “They’re at a secret location here stateside. We’ve been taking advantage of the nice weather.”

Santa would like to address recent rumors that have been circulating on the internet that he will be unable to visit homes that lack brick chimneys and fireplaces.

“Those are,” Santa said, “just that, ugly rumors started by the Grinch. I always tell children, look on your roof, you do have a chimney, it’s a little silver thing that leads to the furnace. It’s a little more dangerous since those things can kick on at any time, but I take the risk because I want to make sure everyone gets a visit.”

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
Tim Elliott, of Fort Dodge, has the stuffed elephant duties down to a science Saturday at the Crossroads Mall. His friend Brittany Kalvig, 17, right, purchased the toy for her sister in-law.

There have been a few, well, close calls.

“I bring extra pants along,” he said. “The suit isn’t completely fire proof, just fire resistant.”

Santa also clarified that, yes, he still likes cookies, he still loves milk, and the reindeer really do love the carrots. What he can’t eat during his Christmas delivery is saved for the rest of the month and he does share them with the elves.

Santa has many helpers.

Tim Elliott, of Fort Dodge, was among those. He was helping his friend Brittany Kalvig, 17, shop Saturday.

She had purchased a large stuffed elephant that was almost as tall as her. Elliott carried it on his shoulders.

“I was not going to make her lug this thing,” he said. “I’m just a pack mule.”

The two friends were a bit at odds about stopping to visit with Santa.

“I wasn’t going to,” Elliott said.

“I got a little helper,” she said. “I got faith.”

Santa settled the issue when he got up and approached them.

Apparently, Elliott’s stocking cap caught his attention for the same reason that Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin, has to clean thousands of lumps of coal from the bleachers every year.

“Not only are you carrying an elephant on your back,” Santa told him, “but you’re wearing a Green Bay Packers cap. You’re a brave man.”

Santa would not confirm or deny Elliott’s naughty or nice status after their meeting. He did, however, hint that Elliott would be finding a new stocking cap under the tree.

A Minnesota Vikings one.

Santa will be enjoying his last day at the Crossroads Mall today from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. After a short nap in the VIP lounge at the Fort Dodge Regional Airport, he will depart for his rounds.

After that?

“As they say” Santa said, “a long winter’s nap.”