'Holly Run' Brings Christmas Joy to Tangier Island
December 18, 2009
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  • Santa, area pilots make the trek to remote spot

    By PAMELA WOOD, Staff Writer

    TANGIER ISLAND, VA. – Everyone knows Santa Claus usually arrives in style in a sleigh powered by eight reindeer.

    But that’s not the case when you live on a remote island in the Chesapeake Bay. When it comes to visiting the good little girls and boys on Tangier Island, Santa needs the help of some talented pilots and a Cessna Grand Caravan airplane.

    Santa had plenty of company on his flight to Tangier yesterday. About 30 pilots from around the region joined in, carrying fresh holly and greens, as well as toys.

    The sight of all those small planes converging on tiny Tangier caused a stir in the skies.

    “What’s going on at Tangier?” one pilot asked over the radio.

    “It’s the Holly Run! Santa’s here!” replied pilot Mark Evans of Frederick, who was ferrying Santa in the Cessna.

    “Oh! Well, Merry Christmas!” came the reply.

    The Tangier Holly Run – as the event is called – has been going strong since Ed Nabb Sr. of the Eastern Shore made the first flight in 1968.

    The story goes that Nabb visited the island in his plane, and noted it was a shame Tangier had no holly trees. So he started flying in a few bags from his family’s farm – and over the years the effort grew.

    Tangier Island is located near the Maryland-Virginia line in the Chesapeake Bay, just south of Smith Island and about 13 miles southwest of Crisfield in Somerset County. It has two churches and a handful of restaurants and inns.

    Most of the approximately 600 island residents make their living off of the Chesapeake Bay’s seafood, and the island dubs itself the “soft-shell crab capital of the world.” They’ve been hit hard by the downfall of the bay’s famous oysters and crabs and the increased restrictions on watermen in recent years.

    The Tangier Holly Run is such a tradition on the island that it has its own display in the Tangier History Museum.

    Children swarmed Santa when he arrived on the airstrip yesterday.

    Later, Santa (also known as James L. Schultz Jr. of Ocean City) handed out gifts and candy canes and posed for pictures at Swaim Memorial United Methodist Church.

    “It’s the highlight of the year,” said Tangier resident Hedy Bowden, who acted as Santa’s helper during the event.

    Annapolis pilot John Cutcher, who keeps his Cessna “tail-dragger” at Lee Airport in Edgewater, said the Holly Run is a nice way to go for a ride and do a good deed at the same time.

    He said often pilots are fond of the so-called “$100 hamburger,” where they fly somewhere for lunch, just for the fun of it. The Holly Run, he said, is even better.

    “It’s a great excuse to get in our airplanes and fly somewhere,” Cutcher said.

    Yesterday’s Holly Run saw close to record turnout, due in part to new leadership from Helen Woods, a Laurel resident who is the flight school manager at Chesapeake Sport Pilot, at the Bay Bridge Airport on Kent Island.

    With the help of others, she took the Holly Run from a word-of-mouth, snail-mail operation to one with an e-mail list and a Web site ( Woods said she’s thinking of moving the meet-up point for pilots next year from Cambridge’s airport to the Bay Bridge Airport, which might be convenient for more pilots.

    With Woods taking over, Ed Nabb’s son, Ed Nabb Jr., and nephew, Carlton Nabb, are entering Holly Run retirement. Ed Jr. had coordinated the pilots while Carlton cut the holly from the family farm in Cambridge.

    Santa Claus, however, said he plans to keep going. Santa bought all the gifts for the children himself, but the Holly Run pilots took a collection and cheerfully nudged Santa into accepting their donations toward the toys.

    The Rev. Patricia Stover, the pastor of Swaim Memorial, said the Holly Run is much appreciated. In winter, there are fewer boats that run trips to the mainland (either the Delmarva Peninsula or the Northern Neck of Virginia), which makes it difficult for families to get gifts and decorations.

    “It’s really hard for folks just getting on and off the island this time of year,” Stover said, as she watched the children crowd around Santa. “They love this.”

    Source: THE CAPITAL
    Date: 2009-12-13