Santa Claus ditched his sleigh in favor of one of the Alaska National Guard’s Black Hawk helicopters, as part of the Guard’s “Operation Santa” events which transport the holiday favorite to rural Alaska communities.
Kids in Scammon Bay welcomed a special guest a little bit early this year when Santa and Mrs. Claus visited the community of around 600 near the Bering Sea coast in late November. The program has been happening for more than 65 years.
Santa sat under a basketball net in the Scammon Bay school gym. The building was full of excitement, even from grownups like Gabriel Wilson. Wilson held a daughter in each arm after the girls took a photo with the Clauses.
“It was fun watching my kids,” Wilson said. “It was a real joy.”
His 4-year-old daughter, Lynnea, got to confirm some of her suspicions about Santa.
“One of her questions before we came up was: ‘Is he gonna have a big belly?’” Wilson said.
This year, the helicopter brought nearly one ton of goodies provided by the Salvation Army to Scammon Bay. Kids and their families got backpacks full of gifts, like school supplies, books and stuffed animals.
Pilot Cade Cross joined the Clauses in Scammon Bay.
“We take part in this because it’s kind of our way of giving back to the community that we’re a part of and really showing that we are committed to everybody. It doesn’t matter if you live in Anchorage or as far out on the west coast as Scammon Bay, we’re going to be able to get out there and support you,” Cross said.
The visit from Santa was also an opportunity for a group of curious middle schoolers to get their questions in.
“Do you have a naughty list?” one asked.
“Of course!” Mrs. Claus replied.
The Clauses were strapped back into the Black Hawk by late afternoon. They traveled to Nuiqsut in early December and will also be headed to Minto this season, according to the National Guard.