Santa arrives in style to bring Brevard cheer


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Capt. Larry Helton of Camp Holly in West Melbourne guides Santa and Mrs. Claus on a tour of the St. Johns River in Brevard County.

Keith Betterley

Although he’s a little worried about mischievous elves falling behind on the toy assembly line, Santa decided to surprise Mrs. Claus with a trip to Florida.

The happy couple usually like to take a Florida vacation after the busy Dec. 24 and Dec. 25 Christmas rush when Santa and his reindeers deliver toys throughout the world.

“I’m getting a lay of the land here at Camp Holly,’’ said Santa, who enjoyed an airboat ride at Camp Holly in West Melbourne during his vacation. “It’s a lot warmer here than the North Pole. I also like the beaches, and I won’t say anything about a cold beverage at Camp Holly’s Tiki Bar. I love cold orange juice.’’

Migratory birds followed Santa, Mrs. Claus and the reindeers on their trip to Florida.

“I love airboat rides at Camp Holly,’’ Santa said. “I love to see the gators and the wildlife. Capt. Larry (Helton) was gentle as we rode through the St. Johns River.’’

Mrs. Claus has been a little concerned about the size of Santa’s stomach.

“I’ve got to watch his sweet intake. On Christmas Eve, he gets a lot of cookies. While I’m here, I have to keep track of the elves (by Internet) every hour to make sure the toys are being made.’’

A 35- to 40-minute airboat ride at Camp Holly costs $32.50. The one-hour, eco-tour excursion by reservation costs $45. For information, call 321-723-2179.

“If you’ve never done an airboat ride, you should check it off your bucket list,’’ said Tia McKinney, whose father, Curt McKinney, owns Camp Holly.

Helton has worked in the airboat business for more than 25 years.

“I enjoy taking people out and seeing the smiles on their faces,’’ Helton said. “With sun like this, the gators like to sleep on the banks. I’m seeing a lot of migratory birds, great white egrets, blue herons, osprey hawks, an occasional bald eagle and two or three varieties of owls.’’

After the airboat ride and a quick nap, Santa had plans to go surfing in Cocoa Beach.

“Before I forget, I want to wish everyone a Merry Christmas!’’ Santa said.