With Christmas around the corner, the coronavirus pandemic isn't going to stop Santa Claus from spreading holiday cheer in Long Beach.
F/8 Studios is inviting community members to its Cal Lights annual holiday photoshoot with Santa Claus, with three iterations of Old Saint Nick available to choose from. Guests can book a private 30-minute appointment in the studio's back lot, which has been transformed into a winter wonderland.
Studio co-owners Michael and Marni Famer have taken precautionary measures to ensure the safety of families and children, including temperature checks for all guests, hand sanitizing stations and sterilizing the studio between appointments.
"The goal of Cal Lights is to create a magical Santa Claus experience and bring a sense of holiday normalcy to Long Beach families this year, all within an outdoor, COVID-safe environment," studio director Marni Farmer said.
During a two-day special, residents will have the chance to have professional photos taken with Black Santa Claus on Dec. 12 and 13. 10% of the proceeds that weekend will be donated to a local Black Lives Matter chapter.
The idea for a Black Santa photoshoot has been around since opening their studio three years ago, Michael Famer said, but it wasn't until this year that residents finally took them up on the offer.
"I grew up in Fresno and it was not always the stereotypical Santa you see elsewhere," Farmer said. "There was way more inclusion, which is pretty surprising. This year, people are definitely more open-minded to the idea."
The man behind Black Santa, a lawyer by trade, prefers to maintain his holiday secrecy to keep the focus on the children, and provide for them representation in the beloved Christmas figure.
"As a photographer for 20 years, there's a certain thing we go by," Farmer said. "Making kids see themselves in a positive light. Black Santa is so important for kids to be able to look up and see themselves in Santa. Someone who looks like them, understands them."
"People take the classic Santa Claus for granted," he added. "Having a president who looks like them, a vice president. These kids are finally starting to see themselves in positions they never imagined."
A third iteration of the Kris-Kringle available to choose from is the Suave Santa, a younger take on the typically older holiday figure. Michael will be the man behind both the classic and suave beard.
"I always wanted to be Santa but I was told I'm too young, or not large enough," Farmer said. "But for someone who needs so much energy to go down every single chimney, he should be in better shape."
Private 30-minute experiences can be booked for $99. The three Santa Clauses will wear acrylic face shields while children will be allowed to take off their face masks. Santa will also be standing 6 feet apart from the kids, but Famer assured they have plenty of extra gloves in case children can't contain their excitement.
"Its important for the kids to have a positive role model during the pandemic," Farmer said. "And Santa Claus being an essential worker can help drive that message of safety home."
To make an appointment, visit the f/8 Studios website at www.fatestudioslongbeach.com/santa.