Christmas arrived Saturday at Lakeshore Mall when Santa Claus made his seasonal arrival riding on a big red fire truck.
By 10 a.m., the crowd around the mall entrance facing Pearl Nix Parkway was filled with anticipation as the first sounds of Christmas music were heard in the morning air. Led by a police escort, the Johnson High School Marching Band made its way around the corner in a parade that led to Santa’s arrival.
People cheered as the band continued inside, followed by Santa who boarded the mall train, circling the perimeter to ensure everyone could catch a glimpse.
“It was crazy. When we got out of the car the parade was going, and then we saw Santa and we were excited because we got to see Santa, and then the train,” said Denise Nylander of Gainesville.
The event also included performances by the Magical Mr. McClure and “Those Funny Little People” from America’s Got Talent.
Christy Elliott of Gainesville came with several family members to see her nephew in the marching band.
“It was cool the way (Santa) came in on the fire truck and the band was there leading him through,” Elliott said. “It was neat. I didn’t realize they did that.”
Though she had to wait to get pictures of her grandson with Santa, she hopes to return to the event in the future.
“I do like (being so close), because we’re just 10 minutes away. That’s nice,” Elliott said.
Larry Crane of Gainesville was with his grandson, Hunter, and shared the same sentiment.
“It’s excellent,” Crane said. “I’ve been in Gainesville all my life and I like it over here.”
It was the first time he had been back to see Santa since he took his son nearly 30 years ago.
“We were in the back when (Santa) came in, they did a good job. I like that train,” Crane said.
Although his grandson was not a fan of Santa, making the picture taking experience difficult, Crane was happy to see his hometown come out to welcome St. Nick.
Linda Turner of Lula was there with Gracelyn Merck, 6, who had chosen to see Santa’s arrival over other events happening Saturday.
“(It was) fun. My favorite part was taking pictures with Santa,” Merck said.
“It turned out great. I think she’s excited,” Turner said. “We’ve seen Santa before but we haven’t seen him actually come in.”
With all the activities and events scheduled, she said the rest of the day was already booked.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for people to get out and have family time together, and that’s most important now,” Turner said.
Valorie Pressley of Gainesville was with her 18-month-old daughter Violet and several other family members.
“It was really nice, I liked it a lot,” Pressley said, adding that the atmosphere was more relaxed than other places this time of year.
After watching her sister perform with the band, she was pleased with the quick wait time for pictures with Santa.
“The Santa was extra nice, and (Violet) gave him a big hug,” Pressley said.
The Lakeshore Mall Santa will be available for photos most days until Christmas Eve. For more information about upcoming events and holiday hours visit www.shoplakeshoremall.com.