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Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret Morning News
With a military escort, Santa Claus waves to children as he arrives at University Mall. Hundreds of people waited to greet him at the mall-sponsored event.

WEST VALLEY CITY — Santa Claus traveled to shopping centers by helicopter and horse-drawn carriage early Friday morning, but the reindeer stayed home.

That didn't stop hundreds of Santa fans from braving the cold, crowding the streets of West Valley City or waiting patiently in the parking lot of University Mall in Orem to get a glimpse of the white-haired man, with or without Rudolph.

The ChamberWest Santa Christmas Parade escorted St. Nick in an hourlong parade from downtown West Valley City to Valley Fair Mall. The early hour — staging for the parade started at 7:45 a.m. — and freezing temperature didn't stop hundreds of people from lining up to watch the floats.

Some spectators managed to do some early shopping before bundling up for the event, but Midvale resident Ann Tolman said she'd watch a parade over joining in the Black Friday frenzy "any day."

"There's nothing in those stores that could tempt me," Tolman said. "It's just nice to be out — the sky is so blue."

This year, 35 parade entrants sang, danced and passed out goodies and coupons to pave the way for Santa, who brought up the parade in a grand finale complete with a horse-drawn carriage.

A number of local businesses that are members of the ChamberWest organization helped donate time and money to produce the parade, which has been happening every year for as long as ChamberWest CEO Alan Anderson can remember.

"Everybody loves it," Anderson said as he waved parade participants into their starting places. "In good years, we've had 6,000 spectators along the parade route. The companies love it, the mall loves it and Santa loves it."

In Orem, Santa arrived by helicopter at University Mall at about 10 a.m.

Some 700 people waited to see him at the mall-sponsored Santa's Grand Event, which included Santa's drop-off, hot chocolate from Starbucks and entertainment. The crowd enjoyed relatively pleasant weather with sunshine and a little wind.

Friday's turnout exceeded previous years. The mall normally expects between 500 to 600 people, but better weather yields more people, said Cindy Koenig, marketing director for University Mall.

"It was a little bit chilly, (but) we had a lot of entertainment for the kids, which kind of helps them bear the weather," she said.

Santa's Grand Event, which is always held the day after Thanksgiving, has been a mall tradition for decades, Koenig said.

Families made up most of the crowd.

The Francis family of Provo brought their two children, 2-year-old Trevor and 6-month-old Melissa, to see Santa. Trevor was more interested in the helicopter than the holiday man but still anticipated the event, his father, Bill Francis said.

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