Young Santa asked to spread cheer elsewhere

Posted: Sunday, December 23, 2001

BELLINGHAM, Wash. (AP) -- A 6-year-old boy who dresses up like Santa Claus and doles out presents has been told by a local mall to take his holiday cheer somewhere else.

''I was cuter than their Santa,'' Joel Demmon said last Monday.

The 4-foot-2 first-grader has been donning a red suit and flowing white beard for two years and giving away presents at malls and stores, said his mother, Tracey Demmon.

Joel gets the toys from dollar stores and fast-food restaurants.

The boy cried after an employee of Bellis Fair in north Bellingham ordered him out on Friday, saying he was competing with the mall's own Santa and creating liability issues by giving out toys, his mother said. But Bellis Fair spokesperson Mary Vermillion said the would-be St. Nick got the boot ''in fairness to everybody who wants access to the mall, so we avoid any unfortunate situations.'' Vermillion said it had nothing to do with a fear of competition.

Joel has continued his gift-giving elsewhere in Bellingham, a town of about 60,000 located about 90 miles north of Seattle.

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