NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) – Coast Guard families were delighted to receive a special guest appearance by Flying Santa this weekend at Stratford Point Lighthouse.

Flying Santa circled the sky in a high-tech sleigh as delighted kids waved and jumped in New Haven Saturday morning.

“There was a big red helicopter flying-in, very loud,” says a nearby child.

“I’ve never seen a helicopter in action before,” added another.

But where are the reindeer?

“They’re resting right now,” says Santa Claus with a twinkle in his eye. “I didn’t want to bring them out early, they’re very busy Christmas Eve night.”

The beloved New England tradition started in 1929.

“Flying Santa was started up in Maine by Bill Wincapaw. He would go out in a helicopter at Christmas time throwing packages to lighthouse keepers and lifeboat stations and it’s continued over the years,” explains Brian Tague, President, Friends of Flying Santa.

Flying Santa visits more than thirty Coast Guard locations in four days serving more than 1,000 kids. After the Connecticut stop, Santa continued on to Long Island and Rhode Island.

“We appreciate the job they do – they’re often not as appreciated as they should be – they’re such a small branch of the military and this is a way for families to come out and celebrate Christmas,” says Tague.

“This is really cool, something special for the Coast Guard kids, no one else gets to do it,” says Rina Shiflett of Durham whose husband is in the Coast Guard.

On Sunday, Santa will be stopping throughout Massachusetts.

A striking sight…full of history and heart.

“It’s wonderful, getting to see everyone’s families come out,” says Veronica McCusker, a member of the Coast Guard.

Santa adds: “We’re having a ball!”

Click here to learn more about the Friends of Flying Santa.