BUFFALO N.Y. (WIVB) — The holidays are a busy time for Santa Claus and a national shortage of Santa performers means spotting Saint Nick outside the North Pole might not be as easy this year.

“It was very difficult. I will tell you, to try and find a Santa that is the perfect amount jolly is incredibly difficult, especially in the time of COVID or any performer for that matter,” said Lindsay Wheeler, who owns and operates A Dream is a Wish Entertainment.

Her company hires several Santas who make appearances around Western New York.

“For us, we typically book our Santas out in June, which works wonderfully for us but unfortunately if people try to call us in October and November, it’s very very difficult to get a Santa Claus or even a Mrs. Claus at that time of the year,” Wheeler said.

A Dream is a Wish Entertainment was able to have Mr. and Mrs. Claus at the Buffalo zoo this holiday season.

She says the pandemic has caused performers to become more hesitant.

“It’s very difficult because of what we do and the amount of contact that we have with people,” she said.

At the Galleria, the location manager says they’ve been lucky and haven’t had any issues getting Santa to the mall this holiday season.

“Fortunately for us, we’re in good shape, we have one Santa. He’s in good spirits and so far so good,” Renee Larusch said. “Sometimes it’s difficult finding someone who can commit to the whole season believe it or not, but I’ve been doing this a number of years, this is my 29th season so I’m blessed to have returning Santa and returning staff.”

At the Eastern Hills Mall, you’ll find Santa helping out The Hope Project of WNY.

“I hope that there’s a sense of in the midst of COVID and all the other stuff that’s going on, this is a time for hope, a time where there’s some type of normalcy of what’s going to happen that Christmas is going on even though the world is crazy there are some things that you can count on,” Santa said.

“Donations are extremely important because that’s what keeps our doors open,” The Hope Project of WNY founder Dee Miller said. “We are completely free story that serves Western New York and the other hand, for those who don’t have the funds, it’s equally important for those kids to speak directly to Santa Claus himself and let him know what they’d like for Christmas.”

Sarah Minkewicz is an Emmy-nominated reporter from Buffalo, N.Y. who has been part of the News 4 team since 2019. See more of her work here and follow her on Twitter.

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