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Families Turned Away After Waiting 2 Hours To See Santa

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FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) - Posing for photos with Santa under the big Christmas tree in Sundance Square is a  holiday tradition for many families.

On Sunday, Jessica Novak took her 2 year old to meet St. Nick in Sundance Square for the first time. She says even though she stood in line for the Santa experience more than 3 hours before closing time, she and her family never got to see him.

"It was just really sad to see the kids crying and saying 'Santa was mean.' They didn't understand why he didn't want to see them but he saw every other kid there," Novak explains.

Novak says she had already waited over 2.5 hours when a volunteer approached her and about 6 others families around her and broke the bad news.

"It was like a scare tactic type of thing. 'If you don't leave now, I'm just telling you, you're not going to get to see Santa'," she says a volunteer warned her.

"We had 15 minutes left on the clock. They shut the gates in our faces. No apology," she says.

Volunteers donate their time to help the non-profit Fort Worth Sister Cities. Every penny from the Santa experience at Sundance Square benefits that organization. Novak says the volunteer she dealt with made a bad situation worse.

"He told the mom in front of us, 'Jesus Christ, lady you should have gone to the mall!' "

A spokesperson for Sundance Square calls the volunteer's behavior unconscionable and says that volunteer "did not represent Santa, Sundance Square or Sister Cities in an appropriate manner."

Carolyn Alvey says Sister Cities has reached out to its volunteers and reiterated the policies and procedures for closing the line to see Santa, in order to to ensure this situation never happens again.

There are signs near the entrance to the Santa experience listing closing times. The signage explains that due to its popularity, the photo line can close up to two hours ahead. Novak says that would have been a much better approach.

"Not wait 2.5 hours [before telling] people, 'You've been here this whole time, you're not going to get to see Santa," she said.

Alvey explains volunteers are trained to do a hard close, even if is several hours ahead of closing time, to prevent families from waiting without getting to meet Santa. The volunteer is expected to stay at the end of that line the entire time to alert families of the closure.

"We gave our business to several different places while we were there. We got coffee, we got food and we were really just treated badly," says Novak.

Another viewer reached out to CBS11 and Sundance Square with similar grievances. Sundance Square says it reached out to that family.

"We appreciate that the families who made us aware of the situation have accepted our apology," Alvey said.

(©2016 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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