VIDEO: Wannabe elves get in the festive spirit early

Kelly McCann, Nora O'Brien and Tara Spriggs at the auditions for elves for Fota 'Wish' 2015.

So, how are you fixed for the Christmas?

Yes, it is only October 1, but make no mistake, preparations are already under way for the festive season even before a pumpkin has been gutted for Halloween. And don’t be alarmed, but yesterday in Cork’s Kingsley Hotel, Santa was in the building.

The sun might have been splitting the stones outside but as many as 200 people showed up to audition for roles as elves at what has been acclaimed as one of the best Santa experiences in the country, at Fota Island.

Fota’s ‘Wish’ Christmas Experience officially opens on Friday, November 27, but while Santa can simply pop down on his sleigh from the North Pole, he needs local helpers to direct visitors around the grotto.

There was no shortage of would-be helpers on hand yesterday, most in festive jumpers and even seasonal make-up as a little piece of Cork City became a Winter Wonderland of sorts.

Oversized candy canes, Christmas trees, even a proper Siberian husky named Cranberry Fairyleaves — all were present yesterday as the auditions rolled on, seeking to fill some of the 100 elf slots available.

Among those hoping to get a gig was transition-year student Charley Moore, from Midleton. In addition to her Christmas jumper, she had packed a tutu, a festive hat, and her lucky reindeer sock. “Lots of my friends did it last year and they were saying how great it was,” she said. “It’s always Christmas, really.”

UCC student Conor Murphy brought his guitar so he could play a few Christmas songs. He said he had the “general elf qualities” needed for the role and was able to apply some musical backing to an impromptu version of Santa Claus is Coming to Town.

Alice O’Donnell and Laura Byron, both from Youghal, said they believe the role of elf hangs on “being happy and very friendly and helpful and always up for the job”. Luckily, they both love Christmas, as does CIT student Anthony Hennigan, who said he had elf experience in that he’d previously handed out selection boxes at his local GAA club.

Bronagh O’Connell and Lucy Higgins, Carrigtwohill, attend the ‘Elf Factor’ auditions for Fota ‘Wish’ 2015
Bronagh O’Connell and Lucy Higgins, Carrigtwohill, attend the ‘Elf Factor’ auditions for Fota ‘Wish’ 2015

Robyn O’Keeffe, Jill Buckley, and Eabha Landers, all from Colaiste Na Piarsaigh in Glanmire, hoped their drama skills would prove an advantage when it came to wowing Santa. “Christmas is my time,” said Robyn, pretty much speaking for everyone.

Event co-ordinator Karen O’Brien said the number of people auditioning this year was up on last year.

This year’s theme is a closely guarded secret but Karen said organisers were looking for people to be able to fill key roles, with those auditioning expected to be in character from the off. “We are throwing random questions at them and expect them to be in character all the time,” she said. “They ‘are’ an elf.

“It’s something you do with the family and you are looking to spend that quality time together so we want to be able to deliver on a very special memory.”

People can also try out for roles at the Smock Alley Theatre in Dublin on October 19.

Seamus Leahy, marketing director of the Fota Collection, said: “We have a huge responsibility to deliver something special for the kids. There’s only a small number of years when they’re that young.”

Santa couldn’t be reached for comment but Seamus summed it up: “He insists on only the very best elves.”

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