It turns out Santa Claus won’t be visiting Guildford Town Centre this holiday season, after all.
Reservation-only visits with the man in red were to take place at Surrey’s largest shopping mall starting Nov. 24, with bookings for the “magical open-air socially distanced” visits opened on Nov. 9.
Details about the “Holidays at Guildford Town Centre” promotion were posted online at guildfordtowncentre.com, but that webpage link is now dead, and a message about the promotion is now posted to northpolepictureco.com/locations/guildfordtowncentre.
“Due to the evolution of the situation in regard to COVID-19, we have made the difficult decision to cancel photos with Santa this year, as well as mini portrait sessions,” the website post says.
“The health and safety of our customers, tenants and employees continues to be our number one priority as we head into the holiday shopping season. For information on our health and safety measures, please visit www.guildfordtowncentre.com/en/covid19.”
Kyla Way, marketing director for Guildford Town Centre, said that due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases across the country, mall owner Ivanhoe Cambridge has made a corporate decision to cancel all “Holiday Marketing” activations in the company’s properties this year. “Ivanhoe Cambridge is committed to putting health and safety at the forefront this holiday season,” Way wrote in an email on Tuesday (Nov. 17).
Refunds from photo reservation fees will be processed by The North Pole Picture Co., according to the web post. “Guests should expect, depending on their financial institution, to see the refund in their credit card account within 14 days. For any questions related to this decision, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.”
On Nov. 9, Way told the Now-Leader that holiday activities at the mall would include professional family mini-portrait sessions “perfect for this year’s holiday card,” and that reservations would be required. Proceeds from the photo sessions were to support Surrey Firefighters Charitable Society.
“We want to remind everyone that visits could be cancelled at any moment, reflecting the pandemic situation,” Way told the Now-Leader on Nov. 9.
For photos with Santa, a maximum of six people were to be allowed, per session, and all attendees were to be from the same household. “Santa’s Winter Wonderland” was being set up at Entrance 2 of the shopping centre, off 152nd Street.
For the holidays, from Nov. 23 to Dec. 31, mall operating hours are extended to Monday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Face masks are encouraged to be worn when visiting the shopping centre.
Meantime, this year’s Toy Mountain charity drive at Guildford Town Centre will not involve a mountain of toys.
Instead, from Nov. 30 to Dec. 4, shoppers can add on a donation to a gift-card purchase and mall operators will match the donation, up to $5,000.
“Guildford Town Centre has been a proud supporter of CTV’s Toy Mountain for the past 7 years,” says a website post. “Unfortunately, due to COVID-19 restrictions, we are unable to build a mountain of toys this year. We’ll miss seeing you at the centre with your toys, but we hope to count on your continued support.… We look forward to continuing to help bring smiles to families faces in need this holiday season.”
Elsewhere in Surrey, the annual Gingerbread Village contest/event hosted by Downtown Surrey BIA will take place at Central City Shopping Centre from Dec. 5 to 13.
“We would like to invite all schools, business, non-profit organizations, community services, sports teams, families and all other individuals in the community to build a gingerbread creation representing what they would like to see in their Gingerbread Village,” event planners say. “Our panel of judges will be awarding over $10,000 in cash prizes to the best gingerbread creations. We will also once again be awarding a ‘People’s Choice Award’ which this year will be $1,000.”