Mall of America hires its first black Santa

FILE - This Sept. 25, 2015, file photo shows the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minn. Mall of America, the nation’s largest shopping mall, says that it will be closed on Thanksgiving in 2016. The center has been open on the holiday since 2012 and could inspire other shopping malls or stores to follow suit. The mall will re-open at 5 a.m. on the Friday after Thanksgiving. (AP Photo/Jim Mone, File)

BLOOMINGTON, Minn. (AP) — The nation’s largest mall is hosting its first-ever black Santa Claus this this weekend.

The Star-Tribune reports The Mall of America in suburban Minneapolis hired Larry Jefferson to play Kris Kringle from Thursday to Sunday as part of its Santa Experience.

Santa Experience co-owner Landon Luther says they “want Santa to be for everyone, period.” With that in mind, he tells the newspaper he launched a nationwide search for a diverse Santa and found Jefferson at a Santa convention in Branson, Missouri, over the summer. He was the only black Santa among the 1,000 impersonators in attendance.

Jefferson tells WCCO-TV that playing the jolly old elf is “no big deal” to him, saying “I’m still Santa, I just happen to be a Santa of color.”

Jefferson will return home to play Santa in the Dallas-area after Sunday.