Though baby Piper at only four weeks old will not remember her first visit to Santa Claus at Central Jersey Regional Airport Sunday, two-year-old sister Bella will fill her in on what is sure to become a family tradition. With both parents professional pilots, the Kilpatrick girls are destined to be as comfortable in the sky as Santa seemed to be. Piper was even named for the type of plane both parents learn to fly on.
Confessing that she “loves Santa,” Bella clapped happily atop her daddy, Kevin Kilpatrick’s shoulders. This was not her first time meeting Santa — she and he are well acquainted — but it was her debut visit with him at the airport that both her parents frequent. Kilpatrick used to be Santa’s pilot at the airport.
Noting that this year weather more than cooperated with clear, sunny skies and almost 70 degrees, Kevin Kilpatrick of Warren recalled a Santa Fly In from years ago when he flying in the jolly man’s.
“About 10 years ago, it was 17 degrees in the open cockpit,” he said. “From one extreme to another. This is her first time at this event, but we will be carrying it on.She likes flying with daddy and is excited that Santa is coming by airplane.”
“Piper’s so excited, she fell asleep,” mom Kimberly Kilpatrick said laughing.
Santa Claus, flown in by pilot Art Madden in a Cessna 172, did a fly by for the excited children and adults, circled the airfield and landed. Assisted by a team of three elves, Santa then handed out gifts to the children, revealed special messages, and took photos.
As Santa was readying to circle round the airfield, the children chanted “We want Santa,” after singing a rousing rendition of “Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer.” The excitement in the crowd grew as the arrival of Santa, portrayed by Bruce Wessel of Manville, drew near.
Once a regular annual occurrence at Central Jersey Regional Airport, the Santa Fly In, was reinstituted last year by husband and wife team Farzan Saleem and Jodi DiPane, co-owners of TriState Aviation, the airport’s resident flight school.
According to Saleem, more than 100 children were registered for the event.
“Joe Horner, the owner of the airport, was involved with the community and with the Rotary Club,” Saleem said. “We are very community-centric as well and though this was a great way to get the community together and raise some money for the Hillsborough Rotary Club to help many charities in our area. More than double the amount are coming this year. We are really amazed by the response and excited to be part of it.”
Readying for her first Christmas, seven month old Maggie Ferrullo was decked out in her Santa finery, complete with a jaunty bow on her headband. Wide-eyed and a bit confused, mom Michelle Walters of Manville, who was celebrating her own birthday, was understandably thrilled for her little one.
“It’s her first time meeting Santa and we wanted to make it exciting,” Walters said. “Arriving in an airplane is exciting.”
Excited about meeting Santa, Jayden, 5, and Jenna Komor, 3, in matching Christmas dresses, were first up to meet the big guy. Along with mom Jennifer and dad Matthew Komor of Middlesex, this was the first time at the Fly In event. Jenna was a bit intimidated by Santa in person, so big sister Jayden intercepted and handed off her gift to her.
Happy to get “exactly what we wanted,” — Legos — Jayden and Jenna shook their gifts making a dancy beat.
“They sound like jingle bells in there,” Jenna said.
Also celebrating his birthday, three-year-old Zach Kosmoski came to the Santa Fly In, along with mom and dad Gabby and Matt Kosmoski of Hillsborough, and brother Logan, 9 months. A lover of planes and trucks, Zach was happily chattering about his new Tonka trucks from Santa to everyone who could hear.
“This year he understand more,” Gabby Kosmoski said. “He is so excited. And he loves planes. This was great.”
Co-sponsored of the event, members of the Hillsborough Rotary Club were also on hand to give out free hot cocoa, cookies and hot dogs for the attendees. Gifts were supplied by the parents of the registered children, who donated $10 per child to the cause.