Santa will mostly be staying at the North Pole this holiday season.

Under the new round of pandemic restrictions in Minnesota, Santa meet and greets are not allowed at businesses and certain entities like malls, farms and restaurants. The River Hills Mall had to cancel their annual in-person Santa events this year.

This restriction and the pandemic has forced Santas like Kurt Martell to get creative.

Martell is now offering virtual visits. He will don his Santa garb and play guitar for children on Zoom.

The New Prague resident is one of the Santas who often performs in Mankato this time of year. Instead, he is mostly working out of his home. Martell and his daughter built Santa’s workshop in his basement, equipped with gift-wrapped presents and a lit up Christmas tree that can be seen in the background of his Zoom visits.

He’s still performing because he “loves watching people respond and know that they are enjoying themselves.”

Martell began performing as Santa in the late 1990s. He had been working as a clown at a Perkins in Burnsville when was asked if he’d be willing to be Santa as well.

He met with some Santa associates to learn the ropes and bought a Santa suit from Pennsylvania, which he still wears today. Since then, Martell visits businesses, events and families, asking children what they want for Christmas and playing sing-along songs on his guitar.

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