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'Most diverse group yet' | Mall of America's first Asian Santa, second Black Santa

This year, more kids will have the chance to see a Santa who looks or speaks like them.

BLOOMINGTON, Minn. — Santa Claus is coming to town. 

Starting Saturday, he'll be setting up shop at the Santa Experience at Mall of America, posing for photos and listening to wish lists. There are two locations. This year, both are located on the building's east side on the first and third floors.

Lando Luther and his girlfriend, Rachael, are co-owners of the seasonal business that has been at the Mall for 16 years now. Luther says families are required to book an appointment online to visit the jolly guy. 

"I've been called a head elf," Luther said. "[Santa] is a busy man and we like to best accommodate families' busy schedules."

On certain dates, you can even bring your pet to meet Santa. Appointments begin with a brief wait in the lobby, where there are decorative backgrounds for taking your own photos or selfies before the elves lead the way to Santa's chair for a professional photo shoot. At the end of the experience, prints and merchandise are available for sale. Video clips are also an option.

In 2016, Santa Larry Jefferson became the Mall of America's first Black Santa. He'll be back again this year in what will be the most diverse Santa group yet.

"This year, we have another African American Santa, which is Santa Pat," Jefferson said. "And Santa Allan happens to be an Asian Santa."

Luther says Santa Allan is the Mall of America's first Asian Santa. He also pointed out that while Santa Herman is white, he's also fluent in Spanish. In total, three of six Santas are Santas of color.

"We like to continue to increase the diversity pool so that our Santa Clauses can look like America," Jefferson said. "Santa Claus, for me, is the person you're with at that moment … I am a Santa for all."

Luther says the Santa Experience is also for all. By requiring appointments, families with special needs won't need to wait in line and they can can request accommodations such as longer appointment times and adjusting the lights or music.

"We are very proud to be able to create an environment … doing whatever we can do to accommodate these families so those children can see Santa as well," Luther said.

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