Soaring with Santa

Gardner Elementary fifth grader Annabel Landis takes in the view from the helicopter.

Recently, a local fifth grader got a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity thanks to Santa Claus and the National Museum of Transportation in St. Louis County.

Annabel Landis, a 10-year-old who attends Gardner Elementary in Waterloo, arrived in a helicopter with the Clauses and proceeded to be Santa’s Helper throughout the day during the museum’s Holiday Happiness Activities on Nov. 27. 

Landis said she waited a long time for the big day. 

“I was supposed to do it two years ago, but the first time it was too windy and the second time was COVID,” she said. 

With the pandemic seeming to subside, Santa, a good friend of Landis’ grandparents, personally called Landis once again to inform her this year was a go. 

“I was very excited!” Landis said, adding she believes her exemplary student status put her on Santa’s radar. “I’m good at math. I’m also good at reading. I read a classic book in one day!” 

She said her favorite part of the action-packed day was getting to see many of the city’s landmarks from a new vantage point. Landis and the Clauses took off from MidAmerica St. Louis Airport in Mascoutah early in the morning and flew over several St. Louis-area favorites on their way to the museum. 

These included Busch Stadium, Forest Park, Cahokia Mounds, Missouri Botanical Garden and more. 

Her favorite? 

“I would say Busch Stadium, but I’m not that into baseball, so I would probably have to say either Forest Park or the Cahokia Mounds,” she replied. 

While on the helicopter, she discovered something interesting about Mrs. Claus. 

“She’s nice, although she complains she cannot see with her glasses on!” Landis laughed. 

The helicopter ride was just one part of the day, though. As soon as Landis and the Clauses arrived at the museum, it was all about spreading holiday cheer to the multitude of kids in attendance. 

“We stayed in the helicopter for a minute, but then we got out and all of these people were just waving!” She said of their 10 a.m. arrival. “It was a bit overwhelming because there were so many people, but we went around and said ‘Hi’ to all of them.” 

From there, the crew rode in a police car to the street car where the Santa Claus visits took place. 

Landis had a very special job to do during this time. 

“I would hand out toy whistles to all of the kids … they were shaped like a train,” she said. 

In between visit times, Landis and everybody’s favorite holiday couple became further acquainted over lunch. 

“First time I’ve had a hot dog in a while,” she remarked. 

By the time Santa visits ended at 2 p.m., Landis said she was ready to relax and did not have the energy to take part in the myriad of other activities at the event, which included holiday train exhibits, a miniature train ride, trolley ride and more. 

“It was an exhausting day just to sit there for four hours and hand out toy trains,” she said. 

While Landis’ experience was unique in that Santa does not often – if ever – have helpers for these visits, kids can still meet him at the Dec. 11,  Dec. 18 and Dec. 19 events. For more information, click here

For any child who has the ability to be Santa’s sidekick for any meet-and-greet, Landis has some advice: 

“Get lots of sleep before and also make sure you like kids, because it will be awhile,” she said. “Make sure you won’t get annoyed if kids cry because of Santa. They take one look at him and they just start crying like nothing before.” 

Santa and Mrs. Claus and Annabel take a minute for a picture after landing.
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Madison Lammert

Madison is a reporter at the Republic-Times. She has over six years of experience in journalistic writing. Madison is a recent graduate of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville; she graduated summa cum laude with a degree in mass communications. Before graduating and working at the Republic-Times, Madison worked for SIUE’s student newspaper, The Alestle, for many years. During her time there she filled many roles, including editor-in-chief. When she is not working, she likes to spend time with her dog and try new restaurants across the river.
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