Saint Nicholas makes two appearances at airport

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BENNINGTON — Saint Nicholas made two appearances this weekend at the Christmas Fly-In Santa Drop & Potluck Lunch at William H. Morse State Airport.

Supersonic Santa and his skydiving elves from Saratoga Skydiving Adventures jumped from an altitude of about 4,000 feet on Sunday at noon for a second year. Ryan Scutt and Dan Schiermeyer of the Saratoga Skydiving Adventures parachuted with Kris Kringle from a Cessna 182 Skylane.

All jumpers had a smooth and soft landing due to steady winds. The weather was low 30s with cloudy skies. Luther said that normally skydivers would be released from 12,000 feet altitude, but for a demo, it's only 4,000.

"This is the first time I've seen someone parachute before," Heather Kinney of Woodford said. "It's pretty cool."

Typically, Santa can be found on foot at shopping malls and other retail venues, but his adventurous side has expanded from traveling with eight navigating reindeer to free falling with less assistance.

"The fact that he's jumping from a plane makes it different," Debbie Begiebing of North Pownal said. "This is the first time I've come because I'm a friend of one of the elves."

Santa was originally scheduled to jump on Saturday, Dec. 19, but the weather was not accommodating. Instead, he met with children and flew a few times around the airport in a Cessna 172 Skyhawk.

Roughly 250 people attended Saturday's festivities, that included a lunch potluck, music by Brother's EXIT and other refreshments. Canned or boxed food items were suggested by organizers as a donation for the Kitchen Cupboard at 800 Gage Street.

Robert Luther, airport manager, said a lot was donated and leftovers from Saturday were sent to the Bennington County Coalition for the Homeless and the Good Shepherd Drop-In Center on North Street.

After the skydiver's landing, attendees gathered in the hanger to visit with Santa and his elves.

"It was a great opportunity for us especially," Scutt said.

Each year Santa thinks that jumping out of a plane might be beyond his age, but the children is what keeps him coming back.

"It's the most humbling feeling when I land and the kids see me," he said. "Every year I say I'm too old to be doing this, but as soon as I land I can't wait to do it again the next year."

Sunday's Santa, or Dave Bertrand, has been playing the part for 18 years now; Gary Townsend played Santa on Saturday.

The Bennington Rural Fire Department CO 4 stood by for assistance.

Sharon Locke & Lisa Rhoades of Vietnam Veterans of American Chapter 601 attended Santa's jump on Saturday to raise funds for the Military Chopper and Truck. John Miner, a member of the chapter, reconditioned a helicopter and is trying to make it part of an attraction at the airport, but is waiting on permits.

For more information on future events at the airport, visit the KDDH William H. Morse Airport Facebook page.

Makayla-Courtney McGeeney can be reached at (802)-447-7567, ext. 118.


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