Last week, the Santa Fly Over brought St. Nick to life as he soared over the Missoula Valley, practicing for his Christmas Eve flight.
The event took weeks of logistical planning and physical labor to get the structure ready for takeoff, but behind the scenes, the Missoula Downtown Foundation was playing a critical role and putting their elf skills to the test when organizer Lynn Lease asked for their guidance with only 10 days before the event.
"I sat down with Lynn and I walked through everything. That included people to potentially approach when it came to fundraising, how to mass market your social media marketing, what the easiest way for people to make online donations was, how to craft a press release, and of course, how we would essentially handle all the financial portions of the project itself," said Robert Giblin.
Giblin, the Finance and Administration Director for the Downtown Missoula Partnership, knew the clock was ticking, but he didn’t bat an eye at a chance to bring back the Santa Fly Over.
"One, this would be a great thing to celebrate, largely because it's happened before in Missoula, and two, the nostalgia behind it. So many people were so thrilled about the idea of seeing something that brought back some great memories from their own childhoods. That, and all of those people back then that last saw it , they've now had children of their own," said Giblin.
On top of a rough 2020, Giblin told MTN News that it just felt right to bring some joy to the community.
He'll tell you that the foundation played a small role, but without them, Santa’s Fly Over wouldn’t have the $7,500 of donations from 156 public and private donors.
Between the Downtown Foundation, Sorensen Transport, High Country Carriers, Minuteman Aviation and an army of volunteers, Santa made it in the air.
"Some of the main objectives of our foundation and our mission is basically to create a sense of place, to create a sense of experience for everybody that lives here or visits here," said Giblin. "We're thrilled to be able to play a role, whether large or small, in the creation of that sense of place. This was a natural fit, so moving forward, it makes perfect sense for us to continue this role as fiscal sponsor."
As Giblin plans for next year, he hopes the Christmas spirit will urge the community to donate.
"Donations that do continue to come in will cover storage costs for the year, but then they will go into expansion of the infrastructure to make Santa brighter and a little bit larger next year. They would like to add some reindeer and obviously more lights. So, we are still looking for donations so that the project can be stored and get off the ground again next year."
You can make donations here: https://donations.missouladowntown.com/. Simply click the project drop down menu and select "Santa Fly Over."