With Christmas just around the corner, Santa took some time to drop by Ahwatukee Foothills. For this trip, however, he left the sleigh at home.

On Friday morning, Santa Claus flew into the community by helicopter. The blue aircraft circled the area several times before landing at Ahwatukee Plaza at 48th Street and Elliot Road. He was greeted by cheers as he set foot in the community.

Hailey Hoskins, 7, said she had never seen Santa in a helicopter before.

"It was cool," she said.

This isn't the first time Santa has arrived in Ahwatukee via helicopter. The tradition, sponsored by several businesses in the plaza, has endured for more than 20 years, according to Tami Shockley, manager of Millie's Hallmark.

"It's a fun way to kick off the holiday season," she said.

Children were able to get their pictures taken with Santa after he arrived and took his place under a white tent. While Shockley wasn't sure how many people attend the event annually, the manager said they took nearly 200 photos last year.

Before Santa's arrival, several groups of young entertainers performed for the audience, including the Assembly of God Children's Choir and Center Pointe Dance.

Dara McDaniel, an Ahwatukee resident who came to watch her daughter sing, said the festivities were encouraging to see in the neighborhood.

"It's great to do this with all the kids [and the community]," McDaniel, 36, said. "It's a community thing."

Jeff and Gina Gutierrez had been coming out to see their daughter, Bella, dance at the event for about four years. The couple, both 39-year-old residents of Ahwatukee, said that while they enjoyed attending, the weather wasn't what they were used to for this time of year.

In addition to performers, the event featured a face painter, balloon animals, a clown and Santa's Magic Elves.

The musical quartet "The Goode Time Carolers" also came out to sing. Typically based out of California, this is the group's first year in Phoenix and first time attending the event. The carolers, wearing suits, dresses and hats, sang traditional holiday songs like "Jingle Bells" and "Christmas Time is Here." While singing "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," the group paused, counting on their fingers while trying to "remember" the rest of Santa's reindeer. Although they weren't from the area, the group said they enjoyed taking part in the festivities.

"I thought it was fabulous," said Missy Anderson, the group's alto. Anderson said she met one family that had been going to the event for nearly 20 years.

The carolers' bass, Daniel Hogland, agreed.

"How can you go wrong with a helicopter?" he said.

Josh Snyder is interning this semester for the Ahwatukee Foothills News. He is a senior at Arizona State University.

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