The frigid-cold of a December day in New England wasn’t enough to keep hundreds of children from pouring into the Fitchburg Municipal Airport Sunday afternoon.
Some were thrilled just to watch planes lift off and touch down, but all of the youngsters were there for one greater goal: to get a chance to see Santa Claus as part of the airport’s annual holiday event in conjunction with Toys for Tots.
So when the visitor from the North Pole landed in a helicopter just after noon, the chatter and applause was more than enthusiastic. And as each child made their way through hangar 13, excitement grew.
“I brought my list,” Gabriel Nieves, 5, exclaimed while waiting to meet Santa. He was with his mother Darlene and brother Angel, 4, and sister Daiynalis, 8, braving 30-degree temperatures, to talk to and receive a gift from Mr. Claus.
“It’s our first time here and they’re really excited,” Darlene Nieves said. “We heard about it last year and thought it would be fun. We got here early to get near the front of the line.”
Last year’s event drew nearly 1,500 people, with over 800 kids receiving gifts. This year’s Santa visit had people lining the tarmac, with a line stretching out the door of the hangar.
Inside, youngsters were able to visit with Santa and enjoy refreshments provided by Gourmet Donuts, Pepsi and Walmart. In addition, the Nashoba Valley Concert Orchestra performed holiday standards inside the hangar.
For those involved with the Fitchburg Pilots Association, being able to give back to the community with the event is a pleasure.
“It’s always nice to be able to connect with the community and show our support,” FPA president Matt Scales said.
Local Marines delivered boxes of toys collected through the Toys for Tots program. The city was allotted toys to be giving as gifts, with the airport also collecting them for the program.
“It’s great to be able to help out those who need it,” said Maj. Josh Phares, one of three Marines stationed in Devens on hand to help give out gifts.
“It’s great to see the looks in the kids’ eyes when they see Santa. And it helps us to be able to interact with the communities around us.”
Phares said he lives in Fitchburg, though he’s not originally from the area. Along with Sgt. Luis Valdez and First Sgt. Allen Goodyear, Phares made the trek to help out.
Steve Brousseau, who piloted the helicopter containing Jolly St. Nick, said he enjoyed helping out, “especially around the holidays.”
“You see the excitement in the faces as you’re landing and it makes it all worth it,” Brousseau said.
Read more: http://www.sentinelandenterprise.com/news/ci_24684738/santa-leaves-sleigh-at-home-fitchburg-visit#ixzz2nD317lCD