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Santa’s Workshop gets go-ahead to reopen

John Peck, artistic director at Santa’s Workshop in North Pole, New York, walks a reindeer named Rudolph around the North Pole at the theme park in Wilmington in December 2016. (Enterprise photo — Antonio Olivero)

NORTH POLE — It looks like the 71st season of the Santa’s Workshop theme park will roll out the elves and reindeer after a just-received green light from state officials.

The Christmas attraction didn’t have a regular summer opening this year due to COVID-19 restrictions, but winter is a go.

Safety plans

General Manager Matthew Stanley said Santa’s Workshop normally starts its holiday season two weeks before Thanksgiving, but that may be delayed a little this year.

“We can be open under safety plans for our entire business. It’s just filling out the low-risk entertainment portion (of state guidelines) and we’re good to go.”

Workshop officials had been unsure of authorization for reopening and were waiting for a signal from the state.

Limited walkabouts

Stanley praised the work of North Country Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Garry Douglas, who has been working on getting permission for Santa’s Workshop to reopen for the holiday season.

“I’ve obtained state guidance that should allow them to finalize a compliant plan and do what they wish to do,” Douglas said. “There’s a pending safety plan before the state to do safe, limited walkabouts.”

Douglas was in touch with the governor’s office to get direction, Stanley said.

“He (Douglas) pulled all the right strings for us,” Stanley said. “We’re working on a timeline right now. Our gift shop is open now. It’s probably going to be closer to Thanksgiving when we open.”

Buttoned up

He said they have a lot of hiring and training to do before they reopen. Santa’s Workshop normally employs about 144 full- and part-time workers for the holiday season, and they have just six employees right now, Stanley said.

“Now we’re getting stuff buttoned back up,” he said.

Workshop history

Santa’s Workshop in North Pole, a hamlet in the town of Wilmington, is an amusement park in operation since 1949. It was one of the first theme parks in the United States and is located off the Whiteface Memorial Highway.

It is normally open from July to December, but this year couldn’t reopen until now because of coronavirus restrictions in New York state.

Douglas said the North Country Chamber has directly assisted hundreds of businesses in the region in navigating the re-opening and safety planning process.

Historic attraction

“Santa’s Workshop is one of the most special and historic attractions in the state and country,” Douglas said by email.

“Their planned walkabout activity through the park during the holidays would clearly help to salvage at least a part of this year’s lost operation.

“We were pleased to help obtain guidance from the Governor’s office that will now allow Santa’s Workshop to proceed. We thank the governor and his team for their responsiveness and guidance.

“I will be expecting an extra present on the sleigh this Christmas.”

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