National Santa shortage gives New Mexico businesses a tough time

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – What is Christmas without a visit to Santa? People missed that tradition last year because of COVID and it may still be hard to come by now – for a completely different reason.

New Mexico is not immune to the nationwide Santa shortage right now.

Both Coronado Center and Cottonwood Mall have their Santa’s booked for this season.

But other business owners and people organizing private events said they’re having a tough time finding a jolly man in a red suit.

"I didn’t work at all last year, no I didn’t think it was safe enough to do,” said Chris Fasano, professional Santa.

Fasano has been a professional Santa stand-in since the 90’s, working in malls and at private events.

But Santa Fasano, and many others, took last year off because of the pandemic. And thousands are not returning to the gig this year.

NBC News reports several organizations are struggling to fill Santa positions. Many of the big guy’s helpers retired last year – or they’re still worried about the COVID risks.

"I’m fully vaccinated and boostered and normally pretty healthy anyway, and I’m using a face shield most of the time,” said Fasano.

KOB 4 was at Fasano’s first event of the year. While at this photoshoot – he was hired to spread holiday cheer at another local event.

"I’ve been looking for something like this to just bring more meaningful events to family events during Christmas,” said Van Pham-Tran owner of Cute.icle Lounge.

Pham-Tran said she’s had been looking for a Santa for a while.

"Yes it was harder to find a Santa this year, just because we are still in the pandemic so there is a lot of hesitations to come close to people,” she said.

Santa Fasano is willing to fill the need – and provide that holiday tradition he and so many New Mexico families have on their wish list again.

"I keep coming back because many times I’m working with the same families and I get to see the kids grow up year after year,” said Fasano.