While waiting for Santa to arrive by horse-drawn carriage Saturday morning at the Crossroads Mall, Collin Hoover, 3, of Fort Dodge, had a few questions for his mom, Angie Crimmins.
"Where's the North Pole?" he asked.
She of course, had a ready answer.
-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
Drake Hayes, 4, of Fort Dodge, shares his wish list with Santa after his arrival by horse-drawn carriage Saturday morning at the Crossroads Mall.
"It's that way," she said, pointing north. "That way, far, far away."
While that took care of the directions, it was still hard for him to wait those last few minutes that seem to stretch out forever, he ran to the doors to look out, then returned.
"Did you see anything in the sky?" she asked when he returned
He turned his head and sighed.
While Santa may, or may not, have been in the sky above the mall when he looked, the list for St. Nick was ready to go.
Collins wants a dirt bike, a motorcycle and race car.
"One he can actually sit in," Crimmins said.
His sister, Cortney Hoover, 6, had a shorter one -she only wants a Kindle Fire, a mini tablet computer.
She was also thinking of Santa.
"This year I might make a card," she said. It would of course be in addition to the milk, cookie and reindeer mix on the lawn.
Among the things Santa always needs are elves. In addition to making toys, keeping track of the naughty and nice and tuning up the sled, they are also a major component of the North Pole public relations department.
Ashley Ashenfelter, 17, got to help out with that as Cindy Lou Elf.
Several of her friends had already photographed her and posted the pictures on several social media sites.
"I'm over it," she said.
She had little concern about the future impact that being an elf might have on any future political career.
"I don't see how it could be a bad thing," she said.
Sarah McCaulley, of Fort Dodge, was taking her son, Drake Hayes, 4, to see Santa for the first time.
"He did so good," she said. "I'm so proud."
In her own youth, the experience was less than stellar.
"It was fun until you got up there," she said. "We have lots of pictures of me crying."
She was able to offer an explanation of how Santa managed to get here without snow on the ground.
"He flew here with his reindeer," she said. "He had a hard time seeing in the fog."
That turned out not to be the case, apparently. Santa's magic is able to deal with the thickest of fog, smog, smoke and dust storms with ease.
"It was no problem," he said. "It was smooth as silk."
The key? Santa's magic navigation system and a really good state-of-the-art GPS unit.
So were the children whispering their wishes in his ear naughty or nice?
"Today, it's the good ones," he said.
For any naughty children who are contemplating a visit to see him, he does remind them that there is always time to turn things around before Christmas.
"Yes, there is," he said.
A good way to end up on the naughty list is to ask Santa how old he is; he won't tell. His chief elf, Dan "Roscoe" O'Neill, will reveal that he's been chief elf for 11 years.
That's long enough to earn three weeks of paid vacation.
"Not till after Christmas though," he said.
He's not in it for the money anyway; he does it for another reason.
"It's the milk and cookies," he said.