Kari Nicholas drew some puzzled looks as she wandered around the Missoula International Airport waiting room Friday in a bright, fuzzy, yellow costume.
It was designed to look like Jake the Dog from the television show "Adventure Time." She was waiting to surprise her father Jim, who was flying in and had no idea she was going to be in Missoula for the holidays.
“He thinks I’m on an overland trek in Tasmania, because I live in Australia,” Nicholas explained.
She has a history of pulling this sort of elaborate prank on her family members. On Thursday night, she shocked two of her cousins at a family gathering in a home here. She was sitting on a toilet (fully clothed) reading a newspaper when they walked by. Another time, she hid in the trunk of a car. She has other pranks planned for her friends.
“It’s gonna be great,” she said, casually hiding around a corner from the arrivals gate. “He has no idea.”
When Jim Nicholas got through the gate, he was engaged in conversation with another family member and didn’t seem to notice the yellow fuzzy woman standing in the hallway when he walked by. When the family members in on the stunt all turned around and smiled in anticipation, Jim followed their gaze, looking a little confused.
Then, a knowing smile spread across his face and his eyes lit up. There were shrieks, hugging, clapping, laughter and smiles all around.
“She’s such a sneak,” Jim said, grasping his daughter in his arms.
As for the significance of the Jake the Dog costume?
“It’s the only one we could find,” she said.
It’s the busiest time of the year at the airport as holiday travelers pour in and just as many are scattering across the globe.
Brian Ellestad, the deputy director of the airport, said all flights are jam-packed with Christmas travelers.
“Everything we have will be full,” he said. “Anything the airlines send us will fill up.”
Ellestad said the day after Christmas, which falls on a Monday this year, will probably be the busiest next week.
“We hope people get here early,” he said. “Our morning bank is main line airplanes, so they have more seats. So if people want to have a good holiday and have everything go faster, we encourage them to get here early for their flight.”
The weather hadn’t caused any problems at the airport as of Friday morning, despite a National Weather Service Airport Weather Warning issued at 12:19 a.m. for the airport. The service issued the warning because snow and east winds of 10 to 20 mph were expected.
There is a 20 percent chance of precipitation on Saturday, with temperatures expected not to get past 20 degrees and to dip down to just below zero at night.