For 16 years, Santa Claus has traded in his sleigh for a more cushy ride in northern Saskatchewan.
Christmas came early for the communities of Fond Du Lac, Black Lake, Stony Rapids, and Wolleston Lake on Friday. Youth from the four communities eagerly waited for their chance to get a photo with St. Nick and tell him their wish lists.
It’s part of an annual initiative by Transwest, as a way to pay back the northern communities they serve.
“The kids just enjoy Santa,” said Steven Thatcher, principal of Father Porte Memorial Dene School in Black Lake. “It’s good, it’s really appreciated, it’s nice.”
Thatcher said events like Santa coming to town really bring the community together.
“It’s like ‘Oh, Santa’s coming,’ so boom, all the parents brought their little kids up,” Thatcher said. “It’s an event too, hey, I mean it’s Santa Claus, what the heck.”
Children under the age of 10 were given a wide variety of gifts from Santa.
Fresh mandarin oranges and candy canes were given to staff and students from the four communities.
The man bringing all the joy to the children is Travis Waldner.
He never planned on being Santa; it’s something he said just kind of happened. His father’s workplace needed someone to fill the role, and Waldner stepped up. 12 years later, and he says he loves the seasonal role.
“The more I got into it, the funner it became every time I did it,” Lardner said. “It never gets old, I never get tired of it. I could do this all day, all week, all year.”
Waldner called the role a remarkable experience.
“It truly embodies Christmas, to me.” Waldner said. “The feel, the magic of the whole Christmas experience.”
This was his first time travelling to the northern regions of the province as Santa Claus. He said without his seasonal job, he wouldn’t have the opportunity to get up to north Saskatchewan.
“It’s a very seasonal duty I take very serious,” Waldner said. “I give every child or person who wants to listen to Santa, who wants to come sit on Santa’s lap or stand next to him and get a picture, I give them the full experience.”
Waldner said he hopes to return next year with Transwest. Regardless, he won’t stop being Santa.
“I don’t ever see me ever quitting doing this.”