This is the time of year when Santa's elves are busy making toys and the Big Man himself is overseeing preparations for his hectic trip around the world on Christmas Eve.

So it fell to some Naperville Park District crew members on Tuesday to install the 16 panels that come together to create the Santa House where the Jolly Old Elf will set up shop next month to visit with youngsters along the downtown Riverwalk.

The house, near the Dandelion Fountain at Jackson Avenue and Webster Street, will serve as ground zero for thousands of kids and their parents eager to share their Christmas lists and other holiday thoughts from Dec. 1 through Dec. 23.

Putting up the walls usually takes only a few hours, says Brad Wilson, director of recreation, but some other work remains, including bringing in Santa's official chair and installing some carpeting "to warm it up a little bit."

The chair is special, of course, because Mr. Claus is -- how to put this kindly? -- a little on the husky side and needs extra room for all those kids to sit on his lap. And the carpeting is key because, when you're as old as Santa, your feet can get kind of cold in December.

Santa will be meeting with good little boys and girls during a variety of hours that you can check out at

As usual, the district also has set aside times for him to chat with children with special needs. It's also scheduled times for pets to cozy up with the big guy and for kids of military families and first responders -- although all those already are booked.

That's not really a surprise because Santa is a popular guy in Naperville. Wilson says roughly 7,000 visitors a year funnel through the house, with a record of around 650 in one day.

Three or four district volunteers are on hand during visiting hours to keep the crowd moving, answer questions and generally try to make the wait a pleasant experience.

And Wilson says the wait is always worthwhile because Santa spends time with each child and engages them in conversation.

"He does a fantastic job with the kids," Wilson says.

The Riverwalk setting is ideal, he says, because along with its natural beauty there's a holiday tree and a menorah nearby.

So what's the best part of the whole Santa House experience?

"Just seeing the excitement of the kids," Wilson says. "And they're even more excited after seeing Santa and talking to him."