WITH big boots to fill and after an 18-month search, Lakeside Joondalup Shopping City celebrated the arrival of Santa Ray with the annual Santa’s Welcome Parade yesterday.
With a real long white beard and honest jolly humour, Santa Ray was selected from more than 50 candidates in the search to find someone who could possibly fill the gap in everyone’s hearts after the loss of beloved Santa Ken.
The centre’s iconic Santa died earlier this year after a battle with metastasised melanoma.
His career spanned 29 years, with more than a decade at Lakeside Joondalup where families from all over Perth would make an annual trip north to have their photo taken with him.
Santa’s Welcome Parade featured the new man in red and white along with the Department of Fire and Emergency Services marching band, husky sleigh dogs, dancers, stilt walkers and elves making their way through the malls – before arriving at Santa’s throne in the Myer Centre Court.
A Rockingham local, Santa Ray will take up residence in Joondalup until Christmas Eve.
He said he was excited to join Lakeside Joondalup this year.
“I believe my role in life is to instil the spirit of Christmas all year round and that it’s not all about presents,” he said.
“Sometimes Santa brings intangibles; he brings happiness, hope and love to so many of us who have lost these important things.
“To me Christmas is really magical but I like to make the whole year magical – that’s why I live and breathe Santa.
“Not just kids but adults approach me as Santa all year round and I give them a coin that says ‘I made the nice list’ to remind all of us of the magic, love and joy of life.”
Lakeside Joondalup centre manager Gemma Hannigan said many customers were devastated by the loss of Santa Ken.
“But after our exhaustive search for the right Santa to bring into the Lakeside Joondalup family, we’re sure our customers are going to love Ray as much as we do,” she said.
“We know Ray will bring the authentic Christmas experience that our customers loved having with Ken.
“And in memory of Ken, we’ll be collecting donations for the Melanoma Foundation.”