Look for Santa and his reindeer zipping through the sky over Billings on Christmas Eve in a tradition that dates back more than 30 years.
Gerhart Blain, who died in January 2009 after battling cancer for 20 years, created the Christmas Eve tradition and then handed if off to his sons, Al and Gary.
Santa and his sleigh, outlined in lights, is due to take off from the Blue Creek area at about 5:15 p.m. Thursday and head east toward Huntley along the Yellowstone River before circling back toward Billings and flying along the Rimrocks to Laurel. The 10-by-30-foot flying Santa hangs below a darkened helicopter, an escort normally provided by Billings Flying Service. This Christmas, since all of the company’s helicopters are out of the country, Will Metz, of Laurel, will pilot his Huey helicopter on the Christmas Eve flight.
High winds can ground Santa, and electrical glitches often shift his timetable. The most reliable way to pinpoint Santa’s journey is to listen for the sound of his helicopter escort.