Sunday, December 14, 2008

Santa Helicopters in to Kinnelon

Did you see him? You know, Santa Claus?  We did last Saturday December 6th as he magically appeared from the sky in a helicopter to land behind Kinnelon's Borough Hall.

What a thrill! What a rush! What a joy for all of the Kinnelon boys and girls eagerly awaiting his arrival.

We didn't have long to wait.  At 10:00am sharp we heard a faint rhythmic sound that became increasingly more distinct.  It resolved into the eagerly awaited helicopter which made two wide loops over the field as it came in for a landing. By the middle of the first loop, we caught sight of Santa's red suit and his white gloved hand as it waved to us.

The helicopter landed.  It was a nimble two-seater out of which Santa extricated himself.  He thanked the pilot, who took off again quickly, and headed toward the crowd of children and their parents.

You should have heard the shrieks of delight! The children quickly surrounded the jolly old elf who graciously posed for photos and exchanged quips and reminders. "Will," he said to a grown man, "do you still have that football I gave you?"   "I do, Santa," replied the man.  And, then to a grown woman "Kathy, are you being a good girl?"  "Yes, I am Santa!" she said.

My daughter overheard those exchanges.  Her eyes grew bigger. Afterward, she repeated what she had witnessed several times. To us; to her grandparents; to other grownups. She had proof positive that this was truly Santa.

I love this Kinnelon tradition.  And, although Santa has been spotted in several other locations arriving by helicopter per this "Santa helicopter" Google search, Kinnelon NJ seems to be one of his earliest stops in the season.

Which makes his visit here that much more special happening like clockwork on the first Saturday in December.  I wondered, though, how long has Santa taken this mode of transportation when visiting Kinnelon?  

I asked two of the firefighters standing by.  You see, Santa has a special relationship with firefighters. He takes a firetruck from the field to Borough Hall itself where he and Mrs. Claus pose for pictures [I understand he's quick to greet many of the children by name and often remembers what he brought them the previous year].  Santa also comes back the following Sunday to ride a firetruck around the borough of Kinnelon to wave, hand out candy canes and dog treats [for children's best friend]  

The two firefighters differed in their answers:  one said 5 years; the other, ten.  Too inconclusive a response.  I was determined to get to the bottom of this marvelous mystery.

On Monday, I called Borough Hall.  Borough Hall couldn't answer my questions and directed me to Mayor Glenn Sisco's house, as he and his wife are personally involved in scheduling this special visit from Santa.  

I called the Siscos and, luckily, reached Mrs. Barbara Sisco. I asked her about Santa. "At least ten years," she said "but, I'll need to check."

In the meantime, she offered me perspective on Santa in Kinnelon.

Santa has been coming to Kinnelon for over 20 years, at first via firetruck and now helicopter - always the first weekend in December.  In the firetruck days, Santa would arrive in time for a tree lighting ceremony on Friday night during which the Kinnelon High School students sang. Although wonderful, Mrs. Sisco noticed two shortcomings to the festivities: the timing was difficult for small children [i.e., Santa's core audience], and it was really hard to actually see Santa.

Enter the new mode of transportation.  The Siscos identified an enthusiastically willing helicopter pilot - with connections to Santa - and the event shifted to Saturday morning to the delight of children young and old!

For the first two years, Santa landed on the Kinnelon High School field.  Then, while Borough Hall was renovated, he landed at the Pearl R. Miller School field, boarding the firetruck and posing for photos with Mrs. Claus at the Sisco School.  All other years, he has arrived behind Borough Hall as he did last week with the photo session in Borough Hall.

Regardless of the location, when Santa comes to Kinnelon, he demonstrates his special kinship to our community.  He remembers kids' names, their stories and whether they have been good or bad. 

Mrs. Sisco is hoping to reestablish the tree lighting part of the ceremony in the near future.

And now the answer to my original question...

A few days later, Mrs. Sisco called me back.  After consulting with her grandson who checked with his dad, she confirmed that 2008 is Santa's twelfth year arriving by helicopter...

Thank you, Mrs. Sisco for helping me capture the details of the marvelous Kinnelon tradition of Santa arriving by helicopter!

Thank you, Mayor Sisco and Mrs. Sisco for encouraging such a marvelous tradition!

Thank you, Kinnelon Firefighters for making sure that Santa gets to where he needs to be during the Christmas season.

And, thank you, Santa, for sharing the magic of Christmas with all the Kinnelon children!

Merry Christmas!

Note:  Here are Santa photos from the Kinnelon Volunteer Fire Company's 2008 Shutterfly page.  It looks like some of the firefighters may be trying to impersonate Santa...  

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