Before Santa Claus makes his trip around the world on Christmas Eve; he and some of his trusty elves will be stopping into town at the Prairie Hills Mall on Dec. 7, beginning at 6:30 p.m., to read holiday stories to the children of Dickinson — allowing parents ample opportunity to do last second Christmas shopping.

Prairie Hills Mall are partnering with Best Friends Mentoring to give families a fond holiday experience with festive crafts, delicious s'mores and, of course, the celebrity appearance of Santa.

“Kids can come in their pajamas for this, ‘Polar Express’ type experience,” Mark Billings, Best Friends Mentoring program coordinator, said. “This is the first time we've done this, to make a more interactive event with Santa that helps with promoting literacy.”

There will also be holiday caroling, led by Aly Otlmanns who will be singing throughout the event and at one point will take a group of kids through the mall to sing and spread good cheer in a traditional carol stroll.

Otlmanns is a former Best Friends mentor and attended Trinity High School. She is currently lives in Spearfish, S.D., where she attends college, but made sure to set aside some time to come back to visit family and friends and lend her voice for this family-fun event.

“I've always enjoyed sharing my music with the community, and so I hope they are happy to have me back as well,” Otlmanns said. “I really love music, especially around Christmas time because it brings people together. Most people should know the words to the songs so I hope they will join me and have a good time.”

Best Friends Mentoring will have about 10 volunteers for the event and Prairie Hills Mall will have between 15 to 30 volunteers on hand to keep the good times rolling with unique activities for the children.

Volunteers from Best Friends Mentoring will host marshmallow toasting for s'mores, Christmas tree ornament making sessions to adorn the tree in the mall, and even provide children with the opportunity to bring home their own creation for that living room tree in the house.

This inaugural event is packed full, like Santa's sack, with goodies and events that are sure to entertain the 300+ children they are anticipating attending. Ingredients for the s'mores were donated by Cash Wise — a way for them to stay on Santa's good list.

“We wanted to do something for the kids of the community; a no-charge event. They'll finish off the evening with Santa reading them bedtime stories while eating popcorn provided from Griffon theaters…" Peggy Thomas-O'Brien, general manager of Prairie Hills Mall, said. "This little event will give parents a chance to do shopping while their little ones are being kept busy.”

The final event will feature a story time with Santa, where kids are welcome to wind-down after all the activities. An added feature that Billings was excited to mention was the projection of the story on a wall for all to follow along as Santa reads.

The event is free for everyone and will include security to prevent little ones from running off. Donations will be accepted and used to mentor at-risk youth in the local community.