Skydivng Santa to land at airport

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BENNINGTON>> Santa Claus apparently has other ways to fly besides his team of eight reindeer.

The jolly Saint Nicholas will be dropping into Bennington this Saturday, Dec. 19 — by parachute from a Cessna 182.

After their nearly mile-high jump, Santa and a handful of his elves will visit with children and their families and will be available for visits and photos, according to Ryan Scutt of Saratoga Skydiving Adventures.

The event includes music, a potluck lunch and other refreshments from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the William H. Morse State Airport, 1563 Walloomsac Road in Bennington. Santa's jump is scheduled for 12 p.m. Parking and admission is free, but organizers ask that attendees donate a food item for the potluck lunch or a canned or boxed food item for the local food pantry.

Saturday's event will be a departure from Santa's usual public appearances in department stores, malls and other retail venues, Scutt said. But in recent years, Santa has become more adventurous.

"Santa has been depicted on motorcycles, surf boards, and other 'cool' modes of transport," Scutt told the Banner Wednesday. "The skydiving component just shows he'll do anything to make it to any location."

Scutt said Santa Claus has made numerous skydiving appearances in the past decade in upstate New York and Vermont.

Kris Kringle and his elves will don parachutes and jump from the Cessna 182, a single-engine light airplane, from nearly 5,000 feet. They'll free-fall for a few seconds, Scutt said, before pulling their ripcord.

Upon landing on solid ground, Santa and his elves will head into the airport's hanger to visit attendees.

"He's dropping in ahead of time to visit the kids from Bennington, to interact with them and their families and take some last-minute gift requests," Scutt said. "He might have some treats, too."

The hanger will also host the potluck lunch and refreshments, including hot chocolate, he said.

It's the second time the airport has hosted a skydiving Santa. The first event, organized in 2013 by then-airport manager Darrin Lofton, had over 300 attendees, Scutt said.

This year's event is being sponsored by the Saratoga Skydiving Adventures and Vermont Agency of Transportation Aviation (VTRANS).

Organizers say the goal is to ramp-up holiday spirit and also introduce more people to the airport. Saturday's event is one of many the airport hosts throughout the year. The airport hosts multiple "fly-ins" throughout the year as a way to encourage visitors.

For Scutt, Saturday is also an opportunity for folks to learn more about skydiving. He said many people have misconceptions about the sport, partly due to incorrect reporting by the media.

"Much of the public don't understand the terms or how it even works," he said.

Organizers are still seeking volunteers to sing carols, serve refreshments and help out in other ways. To volunteer, contact Christopher Wright, the airport's events coordinator, at chrisjwright@comcast.net.

The rain date is Sunday, Dec. 20, Scutt said, at the same time. If the weather on Sunday still prohibits the jump, he said, Santa Claus will still make an appearance at the airport.

Organizers say the best way to check for updates about details and the weather is through the KDDH William H. Morse State Airport group on Facebook.

Contact Edward Damon at 413-770-6979


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