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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)

The Mall of America will host a black Santa this year for the first time


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 says they "want Santa to be for everyone, period."

He launched a nationwide search for a diverse Santa and found Larry Jefferson at a Santa convention in Branson, Missouri, over the summer.

He was the only black Santa among the 1,000 impersonators in attendance.

The announcement was so controversial, the Star Tribune had to turn off its comments.

Some Kris Kringle fans are really excited about the announcement.

Not everyone is excited. Some think it's long overdue.

I'm still Santa, I just happen to be a Santa of color.
Larry Jefferson

Jefferson told WCCO-TV that playing the jolly old elf is "no big deal" to him. "I'm still Santa, I just happen to be a Santa of color."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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