Santa brings the Christmas magic to Saskatchewan’s far north
- Ben Borne | December 26, 2022
Santa Claus parked his reindeer at the Saskatoon John G. Diefenbaker International Airport and chartered a plane for Rise Air’s 22nd annual Santa in the North trip.
No more Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer.
Instead, Santa and his elves board a dimly-lit Beechcraft 1900D at 6:30 a.m. one cold winter morning.
The plane carried a cargo full of gifts bound for the Saskatchewan’s Athabasca Basin region.
At the helm was Capt. Brady “Goose” Tetzlaff and his first officer Christian “Maverick” Scibetta.
“On Goose! On Maverick!” Santa shouted as the pilots took the plane to a cruising altitude of 28,000 feet.
(It’s a one-and-a-half-hour flight to the students and teachers waiting in anticipation for Santa’s arrival.)
Christina Clarke is one of those teachers in Stony Rapids.
She looked up to the sky patiently waiting with her students in tow for the orange plane to circle overhead signaling Santa’s arrival.
It’s become somewhat of a tradition.
She’s been there when Santa has arrived for the last 22 years.
“Just because we’re isolated, it doesn’t mean that Santa is only down south – the spirit of Christmas is everywhere,” Clarke said. “The kids are excited, families are excited, and it’s great to see Santa again!”
For Georgia St. Pierre, acting principal at Father Megret High School in Wollaston, Santa’s visit to the north is meaningful for the children.
“Christmas is a time of giving and hope, and these kids, it doesn’t matter what they get … as long as they get to see Santa.” St. Pierre says.
The children were not disappointed.
“Ho! Ho! Ho! Merry Christmas!” bellowed Santa as he entered the school.
The students and teachers’ eyes lit up with excitement – Christmas magic arrived early in Saskatchewan’s far north.
Packed inside Santa’s gift sack was more than 1,300 gifts for the students in Wollaston, Stony Rapids, Black Lake, and Fond du Lac.
There was a palpable energy in the room as the kids tore into their gifts with shrieks of excitement.
The gift bags included a small toy, mandarin orange, candy cane and a book written by Indigenous authors.
Eagle Feather News was on hand to ask Santa a little more about his gift choices.
“It’s important to include books by Indigenous authors,” Santa said. “These kids need to see themselves reflected in the stories they read to know their own stories, their culture, and to know they belong in the stories told around the world.”
With changes in technology and supply chain constraints – Santa is often busy negotiating deals with toy manufacturers to ensure a steady stream for his workshop. This keeps the old man in red busy, so he needs support for this special trip from Saskatchewan-based businesses.
“Helping bring the magic of Christmas to the kids in the most northern parts of our province for 22 years is the reason for the season for the Rise Air team,” says Dan Gold, Director of Communications and Stakeholder Relations at Rise Air. “We wouldn’t be able to do this without our financial partners at Athabasca Basin Development, Cameco, Orano, NLCDC, SSR Mining, the team at Santa’s Workshop and other in-kind sponsors.”
After two full days in the north, including an overnight stay at Al’s Place in Stony Rapids, Santa jumped back on the plane to head back to his sleigh in Saskatoon. While looking out of the plane window as it circled around the community before finally taking off, he said with a twinkle in his eye, “Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.”