TUMWATER - When Santa visited the Olympic Flight Museum on Sunday, he decided to leave his sleigh at the North Pole, opting for a louder, more exciting entrance.
Between raindrops, the thwack of helicopter blades replaced the delicate clack of reindeer hoofs as Santa and Mrs. Claus arrived to the museum via helicopter, greeting hundreds of eager kids and their families and kicking off an afternoon of holiday cheer.
The museum, located in a hangar at the Olympic Regional Airport, was transformed into a winter wonderland for the 12th annual Santa welcome, including stockings hung from a plane’s wings, presents placed under its fuselage and performing dancers dressed as elves.
Shortly after Santa’s arrival, kids formed a line, eager to make sure they were on his “nice” list and to get in some last-minute gift requests.
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Sipping hot chocolate, siblings Bryce, 7, and Brianna DeWitt, 4, of Lacey hung out with dad Eric and went over their wish lists before hopping in line.
Bryce wanted a tank and Brianna was all about ladybugs. She couldn’t help but smile and giggle when describing the excitement of meeting Santa. She expressed her enthusiasm by wiggling all five fingers on her right hand, which her dad translated as “super excited.”
After braving rain before drying out in the museum, visitors were treated to a variety of entertainment. Performers from Debbi’s Dance, Etc! and Center Stage Dance Academy moved to the rhythm of holiday beats. The Black Hills High School show choir also performed seasonal hits.
Minutes before watching their teenage granddaughters perform, Tim and Evelyn Gaffney of Lacey remarked how they were already in the holiday spirit.
“I think it’s great,” Tim Gaffney said. “Very cute.”
With a train weaving through teddy bears and presents under a P-51 Mustang fighter and music echoing throughout the hangar, the event was designed to bring together the community and give kids the opportunity to bend Santa’s ear, museum executive director Teri Thorning said.
“This is kind of a big deal for them,” she said.
As for the rain? It didn’t hamper Santa’s grand entrance and didn’t seem to dissuade people from coming out.
“We’re Northwesterners, we’re ready for this,” Thorning said.