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St. Nick makes grand entrance at Lakeshore Mall to launch holiday season
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Students from the Johnson High School Marching Band parade through Lakeshore Mall playing Christmas carols during Santa’s annual arrival at the Lakeshore Mall held Saturday. - photo by Alexander Popp

Santa’s sleigh must have been in the shop Saturday, but that’s all right; the Gainesville Fire Department had him covered.

On Saturday, the guy in the red suit made his arrival to the toy workshop at Lakeshore Mall in style, riding atop a gleaming fire truck and led by Cub Scout Troop 262 and 60 members of the Johnson High School Marching Band.

“It’s always a big deal when Santa arrives,” event organizer Joanne Luchkowec said. “And it’s always fun to make it a fun arrival for him.”

On Saturday, several hundred guests showed up at the mall to see Santa make his first appearance of the year. They also could get their faces painted, have a picture made seated on Santa’s lap and see a performance from Those Funny Little People, a group of elaborately costumed elves.

And while some might grumble thinking about Christmas this far from Thanksgiving as a big stretch, Luchkowec thinks differently.

“Most malls started last week actually, so we are a week late,” she said. “But I’m from the North where we didn’t start until Black Friday is over. But I guess this is what we gotta do.”

“Who doesn’t love all the fun of Christmas?” said Jeff McClure, a regular Lakeshore Mall entertainer and event planner.

McClure was part of helping to coordinate the parade to the mall Saturday, and already is planning how to improve the event for next year.

“We are always looking at ways to expand and entertain the community,” he said. “The Macy’s Parade started small, too. We’d love to see our event build and grow. Maybe not that big, but wouldn’t it be awesome to have the whole community show up to support a longstanding establishment like Lakeshore Mall?”

Santa will be available for visitors and photos through Dec. 24 in the center court of Lakeshore Mall from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday, noon to 6 p.m. Sunday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Christmas Eve.

More info on pricing and special Santa events can be found at

Regional events