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Santas helpers stay busy at Bass Pro
Santa’s helper Theresa Gonzales helps kids at the race track at Santa’s Wonderland inside the Manteca Bass Pro Shops. - photo by HIME ROMERO
For over two weeks, Santa’s Wonderland has been up and operating at the Bass Pro Shops in Manteca.

It’s been enough to keep the elves – or Santa’s helpers – busy in handling photos, working the slot cars and other displays, or just talking it up with the customers.

“We’ve been trained to know each of the stations,” said Theresa Gonzalez, who is one of the seasonal employees.

According to Jackson Felt, the local Bass Pro operations manager, it takes 10 to 12 seasonal and regular employees to handle Santa’s Wonderland on an average day, and 15 per day on the weekend.

This is the second year of the holiday attraction at the Manteca store, with Felt already noticing increased traffic inside the sporting goods retailer.

“Bass Pro has been a destination since it opened,” said Whisper Gray, who made a special trip to the store Wednesday to bring her four children to see Santa Claus.

She’s impressed by the addition of Santa’s Wonderland.

“The theme of the store isn’t just for adults but caters to people of all ages,” Gray added.

Santa Claus is the main attraction.

Children can have a free photograph taken with Jolly Old St. Nick up to Christmas Eve, including today – also known as Black Friday, the busiest retail day of the season – from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; weekdays, from 5 to 8 p.m.; Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; and Sundays from noon to 5 p.m. Kids can also do crafts for free at Santa’s Wonderland.

“We’re usually very busy,” said Santa’s helper, Heather Rita.

She worked photo operation on this shift alongside fellow elf, Deanne Posta.

“The key (when it’s busy) is that you have to be quick,” said Rita, who noticed the long lines snaking along the store aisle filled with youngsters and their parents anxiously waiting to meet Santa.

“I think we have a pretty good system that keeps things moving,” she said.

Meanwhile, Gonzalez noted that Santa’s Wonderland is also a chance for children to tryout some of the merchandise featured for the holidays.

“They can demo (the toy) before buying it,” she said.

Included is the slot car and rail road sets, radio-controlled cars, and BB guns (inserted is a light beam in place of ammo), to name a few.

Felt added that Santa’s Wonderland will have extended hours after Dec. 14.