For one day this year, jolly old St. Nick will answer phone calls from children in Columbia.
Columbia Parks and Recreation and Paquin Tower will co-sponsor the Santa Hotline on Saturday. Children ages 3 to 10 can call the “North Pole” from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. to speak with Santa, Mrs. Claus or one of the elves.
“To be able to call Santa is something kids enjoy doing,” said Karen Ramey, recreation supervisor for Columbia Parks and Recreation. “I don’t know if every kid can go and sit on Santa’s lap, so this is another opportunity to talk to him.”
Ramey said the Santa Hotline has been successful and expects 200 to 300 calls Saturday.
Ann Carlson, recreation leader at Paquin Tower, helped organize the Santa Hotline the past two years.
“A lot of people pull together to put on a fun day for the kids,” she said.
Volunteers from the community, along with college students and residents from Paquin Tower, assist in answering calls. Carlson said she gives the volunteers a five- to 10-minute run-through on how to handle certain phone calls, but the conversations are not scripted.
“Kids are amazing,” Carlson said. “They ask some tough questions like, ‘What’s the name of your reindeer if you’re really Santa Claus?’
“This year we will have Cliff Notes.”
Carlson said last year, the phones started to light up early.
The best time to reach Santa, Mrs. Claus or an elf is between 3 and 5 p.m. The hotline was busy last year between 5 and 7 p.m.
The “North Pole” can be reached at 874-7473 or 874-6335. Santa and Mrs. Claus can be seen at Paquin Tower today from 9:30 a.m. to noon.