Santa arrives at Mackle Park by helicopter

Lance Shearer

What is Santa to do, when the sleigh is in the shop, and Rudolph has a stuffy nose?

Jillian Szczepanski tells her wish list to Santa during Cookies & Milk with Santa at Mackle Park on Saturday morning.

Once again, to make their annual visit to “Cookies and Milk with Santa” on Saturday morning, Mr. and Mrs. Claus caught a ride on a Bell 407 helicopter operated by Elite Jets. Hundreds of kids and their parents lined the soccer field at Mackle Park to watch the Clauses “drop in.” The North Pole pair then circled the field greeting kids, riding this time in the MIPD’s all-terrain vehicle.

After Santa's chopper touched down, he and Mrs. Claus traveled courtesy of the MIPD, greeting the kids. Hundreds of children and parents showed up for cookies and milk with Santa at Mackle Park Saturday morning.

But some of the kids, and more than a few of the dads, seemed at least as interested in the helicopter, crowding close once the rotors stopped whirling, and taking selfies sitting in the chopper.

After the touch-down, the action moved inside the Mackle Park community center, where the promised cookies and milk awaited, along with an assortment of Christmas craft activities. Kids assembled wreaths, drew holiday cards, and grabbed an assortment of stocking stuffers, as well as the refreshments.

Crafts and cookies made for a whirlwind of activity during Santa's visit to Mackle Park on Saturday morning.

In a separate room, Santa posed for pictures with the children – those who were old enough to see the advantage of delivering their Christmas list verbally to Santa, versus the littlest ones, who were not at all sure about this stranger with the loud clothing and bushy beard. Mrs. Claus, resigned to her perpetual role as second banana – does she even have a first name? – sat with the children as they waited their turn on Santa’s lap, in front of the Christmas tree and studio lights.

Liliana Anderson, 6, with mom Ashlee during Cookies & Milk with Santa at Mackle Park on Saturday morning.

The helicopter, having delivered the Clauses, took off again as they were still in the photo studio, so presumably they had to find their own way back to the North Pole. Hopefully, the sleigh will be good to go on Christmas Eve, when Santa has a lot of deliveries to make, even if chimneys are in short supply in Southwest Florida.