New owners may change the way Woodburn celebrates the holidays, but promise Santa will still make an appearance

by: FILE PHOTO - Santas House has been a popular draw at the Woodburn Company Stores since the mall opened in 1999. With a change in ownership, it is unclear if Woodburn Premium Outlets will feature the custom-built house. Despite some rumors, Simon Property Group is not the Grinch who stole Christmas.

The Indianapolis-based real estate investment group, which purchased the Woodburn Company Stores May 30 for $147.6 million and renamed it the Woodburn Premium Outlets, has no plans to cancel Santa Claus at the outlet mall this year.

Since the mall opened in 1999, Santa has occupied a custom-made house at the Woodburn Company Stores. Santa traditionally set up shop on the day of the annual tree lighting ceremony in November and stayed through Christmas Eve.

This year’s holiday plans are still in the works, said Maura Eggan, vice president of marketing for the Western Region for Simon.

“We’re evaluating everything, but most likely there will be a tree – there will be Santa,” Eggan said. “Santa will be housed in an appropriate venue. We definitely plan to have a festive Christmas atmosphere as it has been in the past.”

One local resident found out about the potential loss of traditions by calling the outlet mall. Carol Wellington of Woodburn has visitors coming with children for Thanksgiving and wanted to make sure she could take them to see Santa.

“They said they haven’t made their plans for it,” Wellington said. She has taken her grandchildren to the event several times.

“I feel I know of so many people who counted on the Santa because it was the best in the West,” she said.

According to Bob Rhoades, president of the Woodburn Area Chamber of Commerce, Santa’s House attracted people from all over the region.

It also gave his family a local place to come together during the holidays.

“It’s a cool thing for Woodburn,” Rhoades said.

“People come from all over,” Rhoades said. “It’s fun to have a tradition that goes on for years.”

Also absent this holiday season will be the popular Fall Shopping Extravaganza event, which celebrated its 12th year in 2012.

Last year, the event raised more than $42,000 in ticket sales and gift card raffles for 15 area charities with about 1,600 people attending, according to the outlet mall.

This year, the shopping extravaganza was moved by the previous owners of the mall to March and called the Spring Shopping Frenzy, Eggan said. The event raised about $25,000 and benefited eight local charities.

“Next year, it will happen in holiday time,” she said. “It’s an annual event and makes more sense to do it annually to get more bang for the buck.”

In other news, the Premium Outlets will have a new sign with the mall’s new name in place before the traditional start of the holiday shopping season, Eggan said.

Midnight Madness, which draws thousands of people to celebrate the start of the holiday shopping season, will commence Thanksgiving night at 9 p.m., she said.

“Everything is on the table,” Eggan said. “We once again look to have a wonderful Christmas.”

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