Faces of Santa On The 44th Annual Holly Run To Tangier Island

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Santa Claus is alive and well – and was seen all over the 44th annual Tangier Holly Run on Saturday. Organized by the “elves of Chesapeake Sport Pilot,” and sponsored by Chesapeake Sport Pilot, LLC –  the trip delivers fresh greens and Christmas cheer to the villagers on remote Tangier Island, floating some 12 miles off the Mainland of VA, in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay. Chesapeake Sport Pilot shuts down flight operations for the entire day in order to handle this event.

51 planes were lined up for this year’s flight, but dense fog kept the Eastern Shore under a thick blanket, and planes dropped out one by one. After a 6 hour fog delay, only a few planes were left to join in this year’s run to Tangier.

In real life, Santa goes by “Schultzie,” and drives a cab in Ocean City. The license plate on his truck reads “OCSANTA,” and below, it says – “beer & chicks & pickups,”  With a long white beard and hair, a soft touch and kindly eyes, kids know he’s the real deal. He’s a good listener, and even the little ones bend in to answer his questions.

He’s not in the best health these days, and he struggled some, to stay upright during the long wait that kept part of the annual holly run grounded at the Cambridge airport. But when he talks about kids and Santa Claus, his eyes shine deep.

Schultzie isn’t a rich man, but he pays for every single present out of his own pocket. Between the Tangier trip, and other Santa appearances, he spends thousands of dollars buying toys and dolls, kites and trucks, candy canes and crayons. He loads them up into gigantic red bags that require musclemen to move them around.

On the plane, his eyes were peeled for Tangier Island, where he’s been bringing cheer for over a dozen years. Kids jumped and waved, Santa was swept into a golf cart, and shuttled into town.

His “elf,”  Tony Cucchinella, himself a senior citizen, pushed and pulled, lifted, carried and schlepped toys and bags and holly and boxes, and even helped Santa into his tall boots. Tony certainly  demonstrated the meaning of Christmas on that foggy afternoon.

More faces of Santa were seen on the holly run as well – everywhere. Santa was certainly evident in the smile of Ed Nabb, Jr., whose father started the annual holly drop in 1968.

A fourth generation lawyer, who practiced in the same firm, in the same building, at the same desk as three previous generations in Cambridge, Nabb embodies the concept of Santa Claus.

Ed Nabb, Jr.

For years, he organized the annual holly run using paper envelopes and stamps, and hours of phone calls. He’d organize the cutting and packing of holly with 4H groups, and would make certain that the dozens of pilots knew when and where to show for the run, many traveling from out of state.

Though he’s passed that work on to Helen Woods, who has modernized the coordination with technology, the look on Nabb’s face as he executed his father’s goodwill project was the look of Santa Claus himself. “See why we do it?” he asked, as the Tangier kids clamored over Schultzie.

Santa was present in the heart of pilots Luz Beattie and Mark Evans, of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, who spent hundreds of dollars filling the plane’s tank to shuttle holly to the island. He was present in the twinkling smile of Helen Woods who spent months organizing the run, and who wasn’t even able to make the trip after the fog delay.

Helen Woods, Kim Allen, Ray Banedict, Steve Allen

Pilot Luz Beattie

Santa was present in the faces of the families on Tangier, who welcomed the visitors arriving by air, pounding the pavement of their small village, pointing cameras every which way. With dignity and pride, they patiently answered the questions they’ve heard a thousand times before, and welcomed the group with cookies and cheer.

Pastor Patricia Stover of Swain Memorial UMC on Tangier Island

And Santa was definitely present in the hearts of those who flew in those small planes over the Chesapeake Bay on Saturday, peering down into the slushy marshes, witnessing fish swirls and boat traffic from far above. The annual flight is a bold reminder of the beauty of the Chesapeake, so fragile, so special, and from above, the need to preserve and protect it is abundantly clear.

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About Kathy Bosin

Letters to Editor

  1. Great article Kathy – and great photos!

  2. Kathy – another intimate telling of a local tradition – the perfect holiday “lesson” for the season. And your wonderful abundance of photos puts me right there in the plane, and on the island!
    Thanks to Talbot Spy for putting emphasis on these Shore stories – and to you, Kathy, for writing them with such heart!
    Happy Holidays to you, too! cj

  3. What a touching story, Kathy. And fabulous photos to boot!

  4. Lois Harrison says

    Kathy – Thank you for this wonderful story – my husband and I just happened to have driven down from Easton to the Cambridge airport about noon on Saturday for lunch and as we walked in we spotted Santa beginning to “dress in costume” in the back of a pickup. I told my husband I thought I saw you. Yes, it was so foggy and we’re so glad to hear that it burned off so Santa and his elves could make this special trip for the children of Tangier Island. The pictures are pricelessl as is the story – as is the very special gesture. Thanks again – Lois

  5. Cindy Parks says

    Thank you to “Santa” and all the pilots who take part in this every year. Our children look forward to this for weeks when they hear Santa is coming. Even in these modern times it is not easy for our kids to “Go to see Santa”. From Tangier it is quite an undertaking. That you bring Santa to us is a real part of the joy of Christmas on Tangier.

  6. Joan Thomas says

    Thank you very much Santa for coming to our Island our Kids really enjoy your visit and can hardly wait for your visit every year and the adults enjoy the holly you bring . Thanks you

  7. carol moore says

    I begin looking forward to the Holly Run at the first mention of Christmas each year. As a life long resident of Tangier, I remember when Ed Nabbs, came to the island when I was a liitle girl. He and my Aunt Ginny Marshall were good friends, and so the Holly Run became a tradition in our family as well as on our island. I now enjoy taking my grandchildren to wait for the airplanes to arrive, and love the excitement on all the kids faces when they see Santa appear through the window of the plane. My granddaughter Alona, said on Saturday, ” Mammy, this has been the best day ever “!! So I know she will continue to enjoy the Holly Run, as much as I still do…..even after 40 years.

  8. RC Thompson MD says

    Great job!! Pat and I flew in the Holly Run every year I could until we moved to Arkansas – no longer flying, but many fond memories. I am so glad the tradition lives on.

  9. Joan P. Bosin says

    Kathy, great story and pictures. What a nice tradition. I remember our boat trip to Tangier last summer.
    Mom and Dad are proud of you.

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