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Utah Families Follow Santa’s Trek With Help From NORAD

"Mom, can I see where Santa is?" asks 4-year-old Owen Shosted, perched next to his 9-year-old sister Allyson.

Their mom, Camille ChristensenShosted, pulls up NORAD’s Santa Tracker app for them, which pipes out a plucky instrumental version of "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town."


Every year the North American Aerospace Defense Command — or NORAD — in Colorado Springs, Colo., boots up its Santa Tracker. And every Christmas Eve, children across Utah, like Allyson and Owen, eagerly check in to see where Santa is on his delivery route.


The Shosted family pose for a photo with Mr. and Mrs. Clause. The children use NORAD's Santa Tracker every year to figure out when Santa will arrive over Utah.

“Oh, so he hasn’t left yet. What do you guys think he’s doing?” Shosted asks her kids.


“I think he’s maybe getting his reindeer ready,” says Allyson.


“You think so?” she asks.


“Yeah!” her kids shout in unison.


Shosted says it’s a tradition she treasures with four Santa-believing kids under one roof. It’s also the 61st anniversary of the program.


“NORAD Tracks Santa is a tradition purely started by accident,” says Lt. Cmdr. Paul Noel with NORAD. And, yes, that’s his real name.


In 1955, a misprinted phone number in a local newspaper ad led to children calling the Continental Air Defense center, believing they were phoning Santa. The commander on duty played along, and a tradition was born.


“We have millions of hits on the site," says Noel. "And I can tell you on Christmas Eve...there are over 1,500 volunteers that come in throughout the night, and they’ll answer over 141,000 calls.”


NORAD has also expanded its reach with social media sites, games, music and a countdown clock, which Salt Lake brothers Finley and Bryce Barker, ages 5 and 4, are eagerly watching with their mom Julia Lyon.


“What does it say?” Lyon asks.


“Zero-two, zero-five, five-one, zero-eight," says Finley.  


“Two days, five hours, 51 minutes,” she translates.


NORAD says the most important thing for kids to remember is that Santa only stops at homes where children are already asleep.


Julia joined KUER in 2016 after a year reporting at the NPR member station in Reno, Nev. During her stint, she covered battleground politics, school overcrowding, and any story that would take her to the crystal blue shores of Lake Tahoe. Her work earned her two regional Edward R. Murrow awards. Originally from the mountains of Western North Carolina, Julia graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2008 with a degree in journalism. She’s worked as both a print and radio reporter in several states and several countries — from the 2008 Beijing Olympics to Dakar, Senegal. Her curiosity about the American West led her to take a spontaneous, one-way road trip to the Great Basin, where she intends to continue preaching the gospel of community journalism, public radio and podcasting. In her spare time, you’ll find her hanging with her beagle Bodhi, taking pictures of her food and watching Patrick Swayze movies.
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