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N.C. student to track St. Nick's path for fifth year

JACKSONVILLE, N.C. — Santa’s little helpers are at it again.

Team YANTSU, the YouTube Association of NORAD Tracks Santa Users, will spend its fifth year tracking the big guy for those curious about his location. But this year, YANTSU is offering a more interactive platform. Tracking begins 8 a.m. Christmas Eve and ties in with NORAD, the official Santa tracking organization in the United States and Canada.

“This year, we are moving to a new web-streaming site called Ustream,” said YANTSU organizer Patric Covey of southwest Onslow County. “It should be a lot smoother now that websites are making it easier to log in. There are more viewers able to watch on this new website. We’ve always been shooting for about 5,000 viewers but any amount is good for us.”

In past years, the hosts spent hours narrating the event and replying to more than 3,000 viewers. This year, YANTSU organizers across North America hope to expand the service with multiple hosts per hour.

“This year, we’ve opened up to social media so people can get involved with Twitter and Facebook,” Covey said. “We also do Skype calling, where they can talk to the different hosts. They can ask questions and find out where Santa is. We team up with NORAD to get his exact location.”

The best part for Covey is the feedback he gets each year, he said.

“Everybody asking us to come back each year is the best feedback we’ve gotten,” Covey said. “When people enjoy our show, it means the world to all of us.”

Started in 1955, NORAD was known as CONAD, which started by mistake. A newspaper ad showing a phone number for Santa actually was the number for the “dreaded red phone” at the command center of Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colo., according to Stacey Knott, outreach coordinator for NORAD. Children began calling the phone and Air Force personnel used their radars to track Santa for the children calling in.

“We’re providing a fun experience for people around Christmas,” Knott said. “We’re using the same things we use for our homeland defense each year on Dec. 24 to help track Santa for the world.”

With technological changes over the years, NORAD has been able to go from radio announcements to the Internet in 1997. Now, Knott said, their call center has 1,200 volunteers. They also launched a social-media campaign and mobile app.

“Although YANTSU is not an official part of NORAD Track Santa, we work with them because it’s a show by kids for kids,” Knott said. “They’re all very young people, but for 5 years they have been bringing smiles.”

For more information about the NORAD program, visit NORADSanta.org. NORAD will open phone lines at 877-HI-NORAD from 6 a.m. Christmas Eve to 5 a.m. Christmas Day.
 

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