Christmastime at Fort Point Light

Christmastime at Fort Point Light
Fort Point Light

Fort Point Light Station decorated for Christmas and Flying Santa's visit (Photo by Bob Trapani, Jr.)

When a child’s heart is set on the hopes of Christmas joy in the offing, the warmth of the moment fills the air with a boundless excitation that melds holiday wonderment with Yuletide dreams as little ones anxiously await  the arrival of Santa Claus.

Such hopes and dreams are traditionally carried on the wings of the wind as Santa whisks about the air spreading Christmas cheer near and far, but not always does he ride upon his sleigh for important work leading up to the big day.

Instead, there are those occasions over the past 81 years when the jolly fellow in the red suit has chosen to take to the air – first by plane and now by helicopter, for the mission of Flying Santa whose sole inspiration is derived from those who keep the lights that guide the seafarer.

On December 18, 2010, with Christmas Day just a week away, Flying Santa prepared to touch down at Fort Point Light Station on Cape Jellison as part of a string of Maine lighthouses anticipating his annual visit.

Flying Santa at Fort Point

Flying Santa's helicopter stirs a little Christmas magic upon its arrival at Fort Point Light Station (Photo by Bob Trapani, Jr.)

With its beacon ablaze, festive decorations adorning the station and a blanket of snow as a welcome mat, the stage was set for a merry landing by Flying Santa.

Even before those gathered would catch a glimpse of his helicopter, they were certain to hear Flying Santa’s approach reverberating through the frigid air.

Suddenly, one child exclaimed, “I think I hear it – I think I hear it!”

The exuberance of the alert instantly carried away all feelings of youthful impatience that had been racing in the minds of the children prior.

Another child then said, “I see it – there’s Santa!” Yet another voice responded, “Where, I can’t see him?” An excited comeback noted, “Right there, don’t you see that black dot?”

Seconds later, all could see the sight of Flying Santa’s helicopter growing larger as it descended from a wintry-looking sky.

As the helicopter hovered above the ground before touching down, its rotor wash of snow created a magical grand entrance for Flying Santa. For when the snow settled, out stepped the jolly fellow from his helicopter, to the delight of all.

Flying Santa

Flying Santa's annual visit to Fort Point Light Station is joy for young and old alike (Photo by Ann-Marie Trapani)

There to greet Santa as he strolled over to the lighthouse was Terry and Jeri Cole who reside at the site and go to great lengths to ensure that Maine tradition meets holiday cheer each Christmas during Flying Santa’s visit.

“Since the return of Flying Santa to Fort Point Light Station in 1996, it has evolved into a very fun and rewarding event,” said Terry Cole, park ranger for Maine Bureau of Parks and Land. “Besides our family and neighbors, we have invited a number of children from local schools. These are kids who could benefit from something special in their lives at Christmas. One parent told me that Flying Santa ‘will be something they will remember all their lives.’ Hearing something like this is so great, for the goals of the Park are to educate and make the lighthouse more accessible – and the annual Flying Santa event certainly helps to achieve these goals.”

Cole went on to say, “For my family, Fort Point Light was our first real home together. I was extremely fortunate to be with my family all the time here at the lighthouse – first as a Coast Guard keeper from 1973-76, and later as a park ranger at the site starting in 1988. For so many of us, Christmas is a time of togetherness and warmth, and here at Fort Point Light Station, there is something charming and magical about this place that adds to these feelings.”

Flying Santa

Flying Santa and the children gather for a group photo before he departs for another Maine lighthouse (Photo by Ann-Marie Trapani)

The Flying Santa event extends this spirit of Christmas that Cole alludes to with others, but not without a dedicated and talented hand. As her husband points out, Jeri Cole makes all the difference. “Jeri has done an awesome job at pulling this event together for the past sixteen years,” said Terry Cole. “She coordinates with Flying Santa and with the families who will be attending, decorates the house and bakes cookies, which everyone enjoys over a cup of hot chocolate after Santa leaves.”

With greens, red ribbons and ornamental candy canes accenting the light station grounds, Flying Santa sat down in his special chair to greet the children. The heartwarming scene not only exuded a touch of Christmas, but also the grandeur of lighthouses. On this day, the benevolent blend could not have been brighter!

Calling the names of the children one by one, Santa not only presented kids with a wrapped gift, he shared with them a rich tradition.

It was not important whether the children understood the magnitude of the tradition at that moment, for the wonderment of Flying Santa is not found in the past but rather in remaining shiny new to the children of today and the dreams and wishes that envelope their here and now. 

In doing so, Flying Santa creates a magical moment that will one day come full circle with tradition as childhood dreams give way to joyous adult memories.

Flying Santa

Flying Santa arrives at Fort Point Light Station, which stands at the entrance to the Penobscot River (Photo by Ann-Marie Trapani)

Flying Santa

Flying Santa, with help from Cassandra Howard, grand-daughter of "Keeper" Terry Cole, prepares to hand out another gift (Photo by Bob Trapani, Jr.)

Flying Santa

Flying Santa arrives at Fort Point Light Station on December 18, 2010 (Photo by Ann-Marie Trapani)

Flying Santa

Flying Santa presents a child with both a gift and a lasting memory (Photo by Bob Trapani, Jr.)

Cole family

Flying Santa is a cherished tradition for the Cole family at Fort Point Light Station (L to R) Terry Cole, Melissa Howard, Amanda Reynolds and Jeri Cole (Photo by Bob Trapani, Jr.)

Terry Cole

Terry Cole served as a U.S. Coast Guard keeper at Fort Point Light Station from 1973 to 1976 (Photo by Bob Trapani, Jr.)