The government may be partially shut down, but that won't stop volunteers dressed in seasonal garb and military uniforms tomorrow night from taking calls from children around the world who want to know when Santa will be coming.

The military says the NORAD Santa tracker will not be affected by the partial shutdown because it is run by volunteers at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado. The tracker is also funded by the Department of Defense's budget that was approved earlier this year. Santa Tracker is in its 63rd year.

It all started in 1955 when a mistaken phone call to the Continental Air Defense Command in Colorado Springs, Colorado, in 1955. CONAD at the time had the serious job of monitoring a far-flung radar network for any sign of a nuclear attack on the United States.

When Col. Harry Shoup picked up the phone that day, he found himself talking not to a military general, but to a child who wanted to speak to Santa Claus. A Colorado Springs newspaper had run an ad inviting kids to call Santa but mistakenly listed the hotline number.

The quick-thinking Col. Shoup figured out what had happened and played along. The tradition has since mushroomed into an elaborate operation that attracts tens of thousands of calls every year.

For the 1,500 civilian and military volunteers who will answer the phones for kids calling 1-877-HI-NORAD, it infuses the holiday with childlike wonder. A wonder that won't be affected by the partial government shutdown during its 63rd year.


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