If you happened to see Santa Claus out and about in the Watson Lake area in the last week or so, there’s no need for an eye exam.
The News has learned that Claus currently has his reindeer at an undisclosed location in the territory where they are grazing.
“They’re all at Rancheria carb-loading,” said Rachel Morris, a local pilot who has been helping Claus get around without his reindeer. “He’s going to be around town. He’s doing his last little check — he’s checking on kids from the air, too. This is his last hurrah before he heads north.”
With the reindeer so focused on bulking before their big day, Claus has been relying on a DHC-2 Beaver to get around.
While the plane has plenty of room for Claus and his bag of toys, he’s looking to lighten his load before he leaves.
The Santa One Express will be at the Watson Lake Airport on Dec. 15 at 1:30 p.m., where Claus will be distributing presents to the local children in order to make room for auxiliary fuel tanks to get back home.
The Beaver that Claus will be travelling in has a range of 732 kilometres — he is, after all, well-known for making frequent stops — but the 817-km final leg of his trip from Alert, Nunavut, to the North Pole necessitates him cutting some weight — namely presents.
Morris said Claus approached her after she posted online with a photo of herself flying.
“He said he wanted to go flying and he’d even wear the suit,” said Morris. “I thought, heck, we could make this work, but for everyone else too.”
And so, the plane will be on the tarmac stuffed full of toys — both from Claus and donated by the community — to distribute to the boys and girls.
Once Claus signed off on the idea, Morris reached out to the Liard First Nation for assistance in making sure the kids are all able to reach the airport.
“If they can’t get a ride with their parents, … (LFN) is going to organize (transportation) so that everyone gets a ride out,” said Morris. “No one misses out.”
LFN’s two vans will be available to shuttle kids from the library and recreation centre to the airport.
Morris said both the RCMP and the local fire department are also planning to attend the event.
The fire department are well-known fans of the colour red, while the RCMP would like to ask Claus some questions about exactly where he cleared customs and if he paid duty on all the gifts he brought.
While the exact flight path to Claus’s home is unknown, the route likely involves refuelling in Norman Wells, N.W.T., before hopping across the border into Nunavut and on to the North Pole via Kugluktuk, Cambridge Bay, Resolute, Eureka and Alert.
Morris said this is the first time she’s worked directly with Claus.
“I don’t know if it’s going to sound a bit weird,” said Morris about the event. “The whole community is on board. I think everyone just wants to do something fun and organized.”
Best of all, Morris said the Beaver is the perfect plane to fly Claus around in.
“That airplane kinda looks like a giant reindeer when it has its engine cozy on.”
Exactly when Claus will return for his reindeer is unclear, but it is safe to assume it will be in plenty of time for his famous Dec. 24 around-the-world flight.
Contact John Hopkins-Hill at firstname.lastname@example.org