Holly jolly jammies: Santa arrives-- just a tad early

Terrorism, election highs and lows, war in Iraq, missing flu vaccines, Bill O'Reilly... it's been a pretty awful year. Since the weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year's are when retailers do about a third of their annual business, prospects of a slow holiday season have everyone worried.

What's a small-town mall to do? Start the holiday shopping even earlier, of course.

Last Saturday, November 13– nearly two weeks before Thanksgiving– Fashion Square Mall held a pajama party for kids. And for Santa.

While Country 99.7's Linda Thomas was broadcasting the arrival of Santa live, the jolly old elf rolled up to the north entrance on an ATV. Kids who showed up in pajamas were given free "magic" wands that on the count– ten, nine, eight...!– they used to light up Santa's glorious house.

Having Santa come early was a cagey decision. But having kids come to the mall in their pajamas in the middle of November was even smarter. Gap Kids must have cleaned up. Nothing like a little ingenuity to get the holiday registers ringing.

Cynicism aside, the kids really were really excited to see Santa, and it was obvious from many parents' smiles that they were delighted to see their offspring so happy.

Joy to the world. That's one of the things it's all about, right?

Since animals aren't allowed in the Mall, Santa rolled up on an ATV.

Kim Dvorchak dangles the "magic" wand, and her daughter Rachel is thrilled.

Olivia Heide gets a bird's eye view thanks to her dad, Rob.

Tonya Shifflett's son, Garrett, is
really  excited to see Santa.

Country 99.7's Linda Thomas gets an exclusive interview with the jolly old elf himself.

The AMF Bowling Pin Guy greeted the lanes and lines.