Some 600 pre-K students had the time of their short lives Thursday, as the Silverliners and a virtual army of teachers and parent volunteers pulled out all the stops to shower them with Christmas cheer at the Key West International Airport.
The annual "Flight to the North Pole" featured food, fun and festive music from throughout the Lower Keys.
As usual, the event was a hit with the kids.
Student Analise Bryant, of the Key West Preschool Co-Op, said her favorite part of the day was "the cookies with the sparkles."
Her classmate Nick Bessan liked "seeing the policeman" the best.
"I guess we've been doing this for about 27 or 28 years now," said Joyce Benavides, president of the local Silverliners chapter, which was originally organized by retired Eastern Airlines flight attendants. "We have about 300 chaperones helping out this year, and John Richman, who owns the Conch Flyer. We couldn't do this without him."
As bemused passengers bought tickets and checked bags at the airport's terminal building, the legions of kids then took part in a bewildering array of fun activities.
They started on the ground floor, meeting a mounted police officer and his horse, then touring a mobile police command center, listening to music from Larry Baeder and Dora, enjoying some Goldfish snacks and a puppet show, meeting a librarian and participating in a relay race.
The youngsters were then brought upstairs and, one school at a time, were entertained by magician Tim Glancey, who managed to pull rabbits out of his hat despite being confined to a wheelchair with a broken leg.
Escorted by teachers and parents, the kids filed past several tables full of food and balloons.
Then came the highlight: A chance for some face time with Santa and Mrs. Claus.
Every boy and girl got a new toy as Moe Mosher and his wife, Marina, played the role to the hilt.
Outside, farmer Jeanne Selander introduced the kids to one of the sloths from the Monroe County Sheriff's Office Animal Farm.
For the third year in a row, musician Howard Livingston performed Christmas music and children's favorites.
"This is my favorite event of the year," Livingston said. "It's just incredible, seeing all these happy kids."
For years, the annual trip began with a plane ride down the tarmac, but that came to an end in 2001.
"After 9/11, Homeland Security needed the Social Security numbers of all of the kids," Benavides said. "It became impossible to do."
Volunteer Nan Ramsdale seemed to be having almost as much fun as the kids.
"Just seeing all these cute little kids, you can't help smiling," she said. "It's really sweet."