Strengthening stakeholder relationships can happen in the most interesting ways. Just ask Santa, Mrs. Claus and the folks at Yellowstone Regional Airport (COD).
The idea for Santa to fly into the airport ahead of his guest appearance in the town’s annual holiday parade was borne out of an idea from the annual Wyoming Aeronautic Coalition Conference.
“This year, one of the topics was how to build community support for your airport,” said Yellowstone Regional Airport Director Aaron Buck. “My office manager, Lisa Stott, liked the (Santa Fly-In) idea and wanted to do it.”
The proposal to give the reindeer a well-deserved annual day off for this special event caught fire and by fall, COD was in full Fly-In planning mode.
“I thought this would be a great event to help plan and work with others at the airport,” said COD Supervisory TSA Officer Carey “Dude” Cochran.
Cochran, Lead TSA Officer Ruth Harper and TSA Officers Emily Mauss and Denise Barrett joined others from the airport authority, airlines, car rental representatives, and general aviation companies in working out the details.
Team TSA carried the gingerbread theme throughout, decorating their area with a life-sized construction paper version of the iconic house and baking cookies for kids to decorate.
“I volunteered TSA to do the cookies and requested help from the other officers,” said Harper. “I thought it would be a great way to put a fun side to TSA and do a little team building. I was able to get most of the TSOs to either paint or cut out circles for me and they all helped put the door decorations up.”
Multiple photo scenes arranged in the airport lobby allowed over 800 attendees from 24 surrounding cities to snap posed and candid shots with Santa, Mrs. Claus and all their helpers. A private aviation company gave out small toys, the airport provided goodie bags stuffed with coloring books, stickers and candy, and the rental car counters offered free hot chocolate and coloring pages.
“Seeing the happiness this event and our gingerbread decorating table brought to not only the children, but the adults as well, was very cool,” said Mauss. “My favorite part of the event was seeing all the creative designs people came up with.”
The cookie decorating activity was so popular that Barrett had to make a quick run to the store to replenish the sprinkles.
“The officers did an outstanding job,” said Casper/Natrona County International Airport Transportation Security Manager Christopher Greear.
Santa has already booked his COD flight for next year.
“We had an after-action meeting yesterday, and plans are to continue the event each year,” said Cochran.
The magic of the season can’t be denied. Santa finally boarded the fire truck for his parade appearance and someone heard him exclaim as he drove out of sight, “Happy Christmas to all, and to all TSA and its stakeholders a good night.”
By Karen Robicheaux, TSA Strategic Communications & Public Affairs