With many Santa Claus visits canceled because of the outbreak of COVID-19, Mr. and Mrs. Santa made a special appearance Saturday at the Apple Castle in a no-contact, socially distanced manner to greet children and hear what they want for Christmas.

Typically, Santa stops at the Apple Castle every year. This year, the visits were set up outside to forgo personal contact. 

Jim and Charlene List of Mahoning Township greeted children outside of the building, listening closely to what the tots want for Christmas.

There was no lap-sitting. A bench located six feet in front of Santa and Mrs. Claus provided a perfect setting for pictures with Santa without personal contact. And to make things healthier, each child received an apple as a treat.

The Lists were happy for the opportunity to help this year after most of their visits were canceled, including their annual visit to New Wilmington Borough.

“They’ve been coming here for five years,” said Sandy Johnston, one of Apple Castle’s co-owners.

Typically, Santa would greet children inside the store. 

This year, Mr. and Mrs. Claus were outside because “we don’t want anyone to get exposed,” Johnston said. “This seemed to be the healthiest way.”

Shoppers inside were admitted only if they wore masks. Masked and gloved workers behind the counters were busy baking, and the aroma of fresh-baked doughnuts permeated the store.

The Lists have been helping Santa for 12 years. Although it was chilly and damp outside, an electric heater and multiple layers of clothing kept them warm.

They have two more stops remaining this season — in Zelienople, and a virtual Santa visit with children with special needs in Lawrence County by Zoom.

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Debbie's been a journalist at the New Castle News since 1978, and covers county government, police and fire, New Castle schools, environment and various other realms. She also writes features, takes photos and video and copy edits.

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