Santa returning to Princeton Airport

Once every year, Santa Claus eschews his sleigh and reindeer for an airplane, and that tradition will continue on Christmas Eve, when the Nierenberg family, owners of Princeton Airport, open the hangar doors to area families.

The tradition began at a neighboring airport and the Nierenbergs brought it to the Princeton Airport in 1985. This year the event will be held on Monday, Dec. 24. Airport manager Kenneth Nierenberg (a.k.a. Santa) has confirmed Santa’s arrival time to be 11 a.m.

Those who want Santa Claus to bring their children a gift should bring that gift wrapped, with the name in large print, to the lobby of the airport. Those with several children should wrap the gifts in the same paper and tie them together to expedite the distribution. Gifts should be no larger than 12 inches.

On the day of the event, adults are advised to bring the children prior to 11 a.m. to wait in the maintenance hangar. Members of the Princeton Airport Flying Tigers will be serving cocoa and cookies. Pat McKinley, a local folk singer, will lead the audience in a variety of holiday songs. Chris Maslanka will provide the sound system. Santa will call in on the airplane’s radio to confirm his E.T.A.

Once contact has been made with Santa, everyone will proceed outside onto the ramp in front of the hangar, where they can watch Santa fly low over the runway. After the landing, Santa will go into the hangar and distribute each gift individually.

The event will be held regardless of the weather conditions. Parents will have the opportunity to take pictures of their children on Santa’s lap. Typically, distribution takes about an hour and a half.

Those who plan to participate are also required to bring new unwrapped gifts of clothing, books, or toys, to be collected and distributed through the Mercer County Board of Social Services. Although toys are a common donation, items such as scarves, mittens, and other articles of clothing are welcome. The airport will have a container for the public to donate canned or boxed food to help the local food banks.

The airport began collection the day after Thanksgiving and has set a deadline for the collection of both the gifts for area children and the needy of Dec. 16. Gifts can be deposited in the “chimneys” in the lobby at the airport between the hours of 8 a.m. and 6 p.m.

In fairness to all, Santa will distribute the gifts in the order in which they are received at the airport. Usually the distribution of the gifts is completed by 1 p.m., after which Santa continues on his journey.

There is no charge for the event. Princeton Airport is located in Montgomery Township, 3.5 mile north of Princeton on Route 206. For more information, call (609) 921-3100 or go online to princetonairport.com.