Words by Tess Becker
To bring up the spirits of children in a small, chilly Alaskan town, Santa made the trek to the northern Alaska Inupiac community of Nuiqsut where the children braved wind chills of 25 degrees below zero to see him sitting on the local airstrip.
The community is a small oil-rich area with a population of no larger than 470 people with no roads to speak of. The village is only about 30 miles south of the Arctic Ocean.
Santa left his reindeer at the North Pole in favor of a cargo plane from the Alaska Air National Guard.
“Some of them were out on the deck and they were jumping up and down, excited to see the plane coming in,” said Principal Lee Karasiewicz. “They knew right away by the size of the plane, who was on that plane.”
Santa also brought along his wife Mrs. Claus to meet the kids on his journey.
All of this is part of a large project by the Alaska Air National Guard called Operation Santa Claus.
Every year since 1956 they’ve helped bring the joy of Christmas along with Santa and presents to remote towns all over Alaska. It started when one community, St. Mary’s, found themselves without money to buy gifts and the Guard stepped in to help and it’s since become a tradition.
“We can’t go to all of our villages, but when we have a village celebrate this opportunity, it’s a celebration that transfers through the tundra drums across our state,” Nuiqsut town Mayor Rosemary Ahtuangaruak said. “We all get to share in the joy.”