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


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.

About Kathy Bosin

Letters to Editor

  1. mary wood says:

    What a nice Christmas story.

  2. George Nye says:

    Wonderful gesture. Wonderful Island. Haven’t been there in a few years. Will visit this spring.

    • Peter Kraus says:

      I think that is Brilliant what you are doing, I am sure if that would work over here in Pembroke, Pembrokeshire,West Wales UK.
      I fly Aeroplanes myself and would love to do the same as yourself but i dont think it would be feesable, but what we do have is a Group of Motor Bikers over here called the Three Amigos and every year since the year 2000 at Christmas time they do something called a Christms Toy Run which involves up to 500 Bikers with bikes of all types old and new and they deliver Toys and Donations to our Withybush Hospital in Haverfordwest and the Local Children’s Homes in the area. They are Very Highly Respected by Everyone.
      I am not a Biker myself but i run a Charity called Over The Rainbow Dream Come True for Sick People old and young, I get a Massive Buzz from helping others and to take away there Pain and see them smile again this means everything to me.
      This year on December 15th together with the Three Amigos Bikers i am taking along with me by Helicopter from Haverfordwest Airport to Pembroke a Normany Veteran whose name is Ted Owens from Pembroke Dock and he will be joining the Amigos Team by riding on the rear of a Trike Bike together with Father Christmas on the Bike behind, Ted Owens is 88 years old and Very Highly Respected in the Area.He will also be met by a Bagpiper, Austin 7 called Miss Daisy, all the Mayors and MPs from the County and Pembroke Dock Fire Service where he used to work when he was 15 years old.
      I am sure it is going to make Ted’s Christmas Memorable for a long time.
      I am also Very Fortunate to be Mayor of Pembroke Dock and able to get lots of Help from the Public.
      Finally May I take this Opportunity to wish You All A Very Merry Christmas and A Fantastic New Year

  3. Jesse Bonilla says:

    What a wonderful blessing!!

  4. Lee Taylor says:

    what a wonderful way to experience Christmas as it was meant to be. And This Year, with the cooperating various groups that share doing it?—–
    I can assure you that they feel they are the ones getting gifts.
    And I suspect that the same kind of event will be here in Mississippi.
    Just as quick as when I leave this computer.

    THANK YOU, for the idea!!!!!

  5. D.B. Mc Arthur says:

    If everyday were just like Christmas, what a wonderful world this would be. Perhaps there are several lessons which should be taken from this Story.
    Thank You a True Fan of Christmas !!

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