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Santa swaps sleigh for helicopter, arrives in high-flying style at Bend’s Old Mill, to kids’ and families’ delight

(Update: Adding video, comments by kids, Old Mill marketing director)

Event also kicks off local Rotary/Salvation Army 'Tree of Joy,' collecting gifts for kids in need

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) – A special guest swooped into Bend from the North Pole Friday for a Central Oregon visit, but not on Santa’s usual red sleigh – instead, a more local and recent tradition of hitching a ride on an AirLink helicopter.

Deschutes County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue helped bring him to greet hundreds of waiting families. Santa worked the crowd in fine fashion, high-fiving the kids waiting on the Old Mill’s riverfront lawn on a cold but bright day after Thanksgiving.

Kids were anxious to share holiday wish lists and their hopes for the season.

“I want for Christmas a car – robots that can play soccer. I saw them at the toy store,” Jade and Zoe Breon said.

Addison Van Siereveld said she wants “a trumpet, and ballet shoes, and a ballet dress and a ballet skirt.”

After seeing Santa’s touchdown, some kids got to explore Santa's "sleigh," while families made their way to the SantaLand, by the Sweet Tooth Candy Shop. The special place to line up to deliver those Christmas wishes in person is open every Friday, Saturday and Sunday for the next four weeks, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

That's also the spot for the Tree of Joy, where people can look at the tags on a tree for a gift to buy a girl or boy, and return it to the site. There's also an online option planned to shop for the gifts to buy.

Brian Shawver of the Greater Bend Rotary Club, the Tree of Joy coordinator, said, “It’s a wonderful partnership, and it’s a Bend tradition. Like I said, it’s been over 30 years, and so we’re relatively well-known in conjunction with SantaLand for this effort.”

“The goal is to collect presents for 600 kids. Tags have a child’s name, age and size, along with a list of gifts they'd like to get for Christmas.

Old Mill Marketing Director Beau Eastes, done up in Christmas colors for Santa’s arrival, said, “We just really encourage everyone to come down, spend time with their family and friends and enjoy the beautiful area we have here during the holidays.”

Article Topic Follows: Holidays

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Kelsey McGee

Kelsey McGee is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Kelsey here.


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