Craig Knight said he and his wife Amy, 31, take their children to the mall to see Santa and have family photos taken every year.
"I love it. Anything to bring out the holiday spirit. I'm all for it," he said.
A crowd gathered early Saturday morning at Valley Mall for Santa Claus' 10 a.m. season debut. Frosty the Snowman, Holly the Elf, and mall mascot Cully the Conductor mingled with the children. Raggedy Ann and Andy provided entertainment with a musical show, "Toy Time Fun," before Santa chugged in to great cheering on the Valley Mall Express.
Mall Marketing Director Brian Kaltenbaugh said while some people consider Black Friday to be the kickoff of the holiday shopping season, the mall leaves it up to Santa.
"For us, Santa's arrival really starts off the shopping season. It's kind of a tradition," Kaltenbaugh said.
Mellenie Sublett of Boonsboro and her extended family took their children to see Santa and to shop. Sublett's daughters dressed up in bright red dresses and lighted musical reindeer antlers. Their requests of Santa were simple. Ziahya, 4, wanted a "little Barbie" and Zoey, 3, was hoping for a princess dress like the character Belle wore in "Beauty and the Beast."
Santa said most requests these days are not so basic.
"They want Wiis, iPods... There is no simple thing anymore. Even the little ones have really stepped it up. They don't use doll babies anymore," he said.
Perhaps a handful ofÂ children signaled the resurgence of simplicity. Faith Moore, 3, of Clear Spring, asked for Barbie dolls and a ball. Michael Kade Fotta, 7, of Boonsboro, requested a monster truck, and his sisters, Kennadi, 4, and Kamilyn, 3, both wanted "a dolly and a play reindeer."
Laura Walsh, 20, of Hagerstown, said her 5-month-old son Bradley Lewis was too little to want anything at all. He was happy just to tug Santa's beard and pull off his glasses.