OCEANSIDE — All eyes will be to looking skyward Nov. 24 as Santa Claus and his elves drop in by parachute to the NewMark Merrill Companies shopping center on College Boulevard.
The annual event is a well-choreographed aerial demonstration.
Before the jump the small plane carrying Santa and his crew climbs to 7,000 feet. On board the plane the daily wind conditions are evaluated to determine when Santa and his helpers must exit the plane to hit the mark below.
At just the right moment Santa jumps out followed by two elves. It’s a free fall of 5,000 feet before Santa and the elves open their shoots at about 2,000 feet. Staggered shoot openings ensures the elves land first and Santa makes the final grand entrance.
Dressed in the red Santa suit is Rich Piccirilli, owner of Just in Time Skydivers.
“We have a announcer on the ground who works with us and narrates the parachute jump,” Piccirilli said. “At 500 feet you can hear all the kids yelling and screaming for Santa Claus.”
Piccirilli said he gets about three requests a year to jump into Southern California shopping centers as Santa.
Other aerial demonstrations he is called on to perform include patriotic shows, pirate ship landings and Easter bunny drop-ins.
Costume demonstrations are usually seasonal.
“Over the years it’s mostly Santa and the Easter bunny,” Piccirilli said. “After 4,060 jumps it’s hard to remember them all.”
Piccirilli said his favorite demonstration is a patriotic performance in which the American flags flies underneath him and fellow skydiver Lynn Fogleman lands first and catches the flag.
Piccirilli said he has been skydiving since 1967. He previously was a gymnast and springboard diver.
“Skydiving was the next logical step,” he said. “It takes awareness of where you are in time and space.”
The NewMark Merrill Companies shopping center is located at 427 College Boulevard. Santa is scheduled to parachute in at noon. A free family carnival follows Santa’s landing.
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