Santa Luke got hugs from students who had “red noses” at Wind River Elementary School Thursday afternoon. The students got their red noses during the school assembly before Santa arrived. (Ernie Over photo)

(Pavillion, Wyo.) – With his reindeer parked on top of the roof at Wind River Elementary School this afternoon, Santa Claus made his way into the commons area and, class by class, answered questions and handed out gifts to the students, Pre-K through 5th grade.

Santa, we’ll call him Luke, reprised his role from last year and said he enjoys being Mr. Claus because of the smiles it brings to the children’s faces, especially after they get a toy and open it up.” ┬áThere is only one drawback to the job, he said laughing. “It’s really hot in here.” Santa Luke, who is a junior at WRHS this year, hopes he can do it again next year. “It’s really worth it.”

Santa usually makes an appearance at WRES, but this year there was a new wrinkle. Thanks to the National Guard Recruiters office in Lander, each of children received a gift.

When the first grade class had a chance to visit with Santa, the kids came up with some good questions.

“You live with Mrs. Claus, right?” a little girl asked.

One child, naming each of the reindeer in order, including poor Rudolf with his red nose, wanted to confirm the reindeer were all okay.

Another was seeking reassurance. “Do you really have reindeer and sleigh bells?”

“Why don’t you fly a helicopter?” one boy asked.

Santa said that because he was at the school for longer than he usually stops, he had to throw some hay up on the roof for the reindeer to eat.

Just before Santa left, one child came up to him, thanked him for her present, and gave him a granola bar. There’s nothing like getting a head start on the milk and cookies for Christmas Eve!

While the smaller kids got gifts from Santa, including puzzles, books, dolls, coloring books and the like, the older children each got a $5 gift card from Walmart. And Santa didn’t forget the kids up at the Crowheart School either. They also got gifts.

Photos by Ernie Over. Click to enlarge: