Merry prankster evolves into school’s holiday tradition – Coastal Observer


Merry prankster evolves into school’s holiday tradition

An elf resembling principal Travis Klatka returned to Waccamaw Intermediate this week.

The question that was nagging students and parents at Waccamaw Intermediate was answered as cars pulled up in the front of the school Monday morning. Sunrise revealed a splash of green in the branches of a lacebark elm – and a sliver of yellow tights.

The elf was back.

“I did have a lot of people around Dec. 1st start to ask, When’s the elf coming?’” said Travis Klatka, the principal, who bears an uncanny resemblance to the elf.

To anyone in the fourth, fifth or sixth grade, Klatka denies that there is a connection. To anyone older, he acknowledges that what he started last year as a way to put some fun into the final days before the Christmas vacation has acquired the warm glow of a holiday tradition.

Klatka could have used some of that warmth Monday. The overnight storm that dropped temperatures into the 40s was still whipping up a north wind as he climbed a step ladder in the semi-darkness.

The elm is where Klatka started out last year before taking the elf to a variety of locations on campus. One day it was under the weather and had to see the nurse. Another, it was fishing in the aquarium in the lobby. While there were occasional signs of mischief, the elf always sat with a noncommital gaze when kids were around.

Although the school staff was also taken by surprise by the elf’s initial appearance, they have since weighed in with suggestions for its morning activities.

“We’ve got a plan mapped out for this year,” Klatka said.

The elf appeared all 12 days of school last December. It was finally captured by Chompers, the school’s gator mascot, and wrapped up in lights. 

Charles Reed, the building manager who is responsible for the care and feeding of Chompers, said he couldn’t figure out how the elf managed to escape. This year, with a new district calendar, the elf will appear for nine days. 

“I’m sure we’ll get him,” Reed said.

It took a while for the elf to attract attention, even with red and black paper chains draped over the tree branches. But as the drop-off line grew, the elf became harder to miss. Heads turned. Cellphones appeared for photos.

“That’s pretty cool,” one boy said as he tumbled out of an SUV with a group of kids.

“It’s funny how many don’t notice at first,” Klatka said.

The sixth-graders, who are dropped off at another entrance, where they were greeted by Jamie Curry in her Grinch pajamas (another holiday tradition), started making their way toward the front of the school to inspect the elf.

By the time students were settled in their classrooms, the elf had disappeared into Klatka’s office.

“My legs and feet are going numb,” he said, but he added that it is worth the effort. “It brings a smile. It’s just a little smile as we head into Christmas.”

As word spreads through the school, Klatka knows there will be questions. “It’s not me,” he will tell the kids.



Georgetown County Board of Education: First and third Tuesdays, 5:30 p.m., Beck Education Center. For details, go to Georgetown County Council: Second and fourth Tuesdays, 5:30 p.m., Council Chambers, 129 Screven St., Georgetown. For details, go to Pawleys Island Town Council: Second Mondays, 5 p.m. Town Hall, 323 Myrtle Ave. For details, go to   , .