None of the hundreds of people at the Portage Municipal Airport on Friday would have blamed Santa Claus if he’d opted to arrive in white shorts and a red tropical print shirt.
The sunshine and 50-degree weather offered a sharp contrast not only to the chills and gusts from earlier this month, but also to numerous landings in previous years on the Friday after Thanksgiving.
“I can remember,” Jeff Skinner said, “when it was 20 below — but the days leading up to it, and the days afterward, all had nice weather.”
As Skinner surveyed a private plane on the tarmac with his 7-year-old grandson, Aydin Skinner, he conveyed the appearance that Santa had landed early, and incognito.
With white hair and a white fluffy beard — which he said he keeps, unshaven, year-round — Skinner is a natural Santa who does, in fact, portray St. Nick at various venues in this area.
“I’ve kept every slip of paper that children have given me,” he said. “I’ve got craft projects, lists, even pages from the Sears-Roebuck catalog.”
The Santa who lands in Portage, however, is the real thing. At least that’s what Portage Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Marianne Hanson implied when she ran up to Santa, hugged him and exclaimed, “Welcome to Portage.”
Among those eagerly awaiting Santa’s arrival were Levi, 3, and Desmond, 5, whose mother, Angie Parpart, pointed toward the western sky and said, “He’s going to come out of the clouds. Keep looking.”
Once Santa had exited the small plane and regained his land legs, he addressed the throng.
“How are you? Did you all have a nice Thanksgiving? Did you eat dessert first?”
Whether they ate dessert first or not, the youngsters who came to Santa as he held court on a picnic table got a sweet treat — a full-size candy cane.
Although the line extended almost to the hangars, everybody who wanted to share a wish list with Santa was accommodated.
Santa was slightly taken aback, however, by the request of 7-year-old Danica Owens.
“I haven’t had anybody ask me for pickup sticks in years,” he said. “That’s an old-fashioned game.”
When Danica smiled at him, however, he invited her to add two more things to her holiday list.
“You want your two front teeth, don’t you?” he said.