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Santa Switch At Mall Has Polarizing Effect

Rip Mann, Dulles Town Center's previous and, for some, only Santa, above and below. His contract with the mall was not renewed this year.
Rip Mann, Dulles Town Center's previous and, for some, only Santa, above and below. His contract with the mall was not renewed this year. (Photos By Erica Garman)
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By Erica Garman
Sunday, December 21, 2008

Living in LoCo is Erica Garman's blog devoted to news about Loudoun County. You can find it at http://www.loudounextra.com. This column of highlights appears every Sunday.

Two new Clauses are at Dulles Town Center this year, replacing the mall's original and longtime Santa, Rip Mann.

Until this season, Mann had been the mall's only Santa. Before the mall opened in 1999, Mann played Santa at Tysons Galleria for several years.

I was saddened to learn that Mann would not be returning as Santa. (I haven't told the kids yet; too many questions will come of it.)

Matt Bressler of Sterling was also upset at the news. His children have been photographed with Mann every year since 1993. Bressler's kids are now 20 and 22, and as they grew, he said, they never turned down an opportunity to have their picture taken with Santa. Bressler and his wife, Deb, joined their children in the photos beginning in 2001.

Now that Mann is absent from the mall, the Bresslers have decided their annual Christmas photo tradition will come to an end. "We could not possibly have our picture taken with a pretend Santa now," Bressler said.

Mann told the Loudoun Times-Mirror in October that his multiyear contract with the mall had expired and that he had received notice it would not be renewed. Two Santas were needed, management told Mann, to meet growing customer demand.

Jackie Young, marketing director at Dulles Town Center, confirmed this in an e-mail to me Wednesday.

"We do have two Santas this year, working in shifts to accommodate the extended hours," she wrote. "This is in response to customer feedback from prior years -- people were frustrated by the long wait lines at Santa's Village. In order to alleviate the two- and three-hour waits, we extended the visiting hours, which resulted in the need for two Santa characters."

Mann had expressed an interest in reducing his Santa hours, Young added, and that request didn't fit with the mall's plans to create more Santa availability.

I was at Dulles Town Center on Wednesday to check out one of the new Santas. And I have to say I was pleasantly surprised.


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