Holly Run helps brings Christmas to Tangier Island
STEVENSVILLE — The Bay Bridge Airport was the launching point to bring Christmas cheer to residents of the tiny Tangier Island, Va. — by airplane.
In the morning hours of Saturday, Dec. 10, pilots from Chesapeake Bay region braved the bitter cold and flew their small planes from the Bay Bridge Airport to Tangier Island, which has a population of 460 people and is only accessible by boat or airplane.
As the tradition for almost 50 years, the pilots participated in the Tangier Holly Run by delivering holly to the island residents since holly is so scare there for residents to use for Christmas decorations. And school supplies was delivered to the teachers because it’s hard to get off the island to purchase the supplies.
Both the holly and school supplies are donated.
The big hit with the kids was Santa who came by plane and gave candy canes to the children at Tangier Island’s make-shift airport.
Before the pilots left for Tangier, they filled up on breakfast at the Bay Bridge Airport with bacon, bananas, and freshly made blueberry pancakes. Kim Allen of Stevensville was in charge of the breakfast and personally flipped the pancakes.
Dan Brown, president of the Chesapeake Flying Club, went on the trip. The club is one of the sponsors. “It’s an opportunity to give to a community that needs help. They are so isolated,” he said about the island.
Helen Woods, owner of the Chesapeake Sport Pilot school in Stevensville, was the “chief elk” of the event. She described the volunteer event by saying, “It’s a combination of a real enjoyable flight and Tangier Island is just so adorable.”
Steve Allen of Stevensville also volunteered for the event. He couldn’t fly down this year, but he has before. “It’s a fun experience, a good cause. It’s a great opportunity to get together with the local pilot community,” he said.
After eating breakfast, the pilots took off to Tangier Island. About 36 airplanes had registered for the event and about 77 people went. It’s a 30 to 40 minute flight to Tangier.
The press also got a lift in a sixseater plane, piloted by volunteer Joe Budge, an alderman in Annapolis. The plane ride went off without a hitch. There was some turbulence, but otherwise the ride was smooth with incredible views of the Mid-Shore and, of course, Tangier Island.
Once landed, the planes parked in a row and then Santa emerged from one plane and a dozen kids crowded around him as he gave candy canes to them while their parents looked on and some took pictures.
Then there came the next part of this trip — a church service at the Swain Memorial United Methodist Church, which was a quick walk from the airport landing strip. During the walk, an odd habit of the town became apparent. Most residents got around by driving golf carts. There were very few cars, which would have trouble getting by on the narrow streets.
The Rev. John Flood led a short ceremony at the church which included singing, a Bible reading and praying. Outside the church were the bags of holly. Normally, the church leaves the bags of holly next to the building. People know they can take what they want for their decorations for their homes or the churches.
After the service, it was time to eat. Most people crowded into Lorraine’s, one of the few restaurants on the island. The favorite order was the crab cake sandwich and soup.
Some people also went to the Tangier Histor y Museum and Interpretive Cultural Center, which openly briefly for the day. Inside the museum stood James Eskridge, the mayor of the incorporated Tangier Island. Eskridge’s nickname is “Ooker.”
“The residents look forward to [the Holly Run]. They use the holly to decorate their churches and the citizens get some and use them in their homes. The school supplies help out a lot,” Eskridge said.
The Holly Run dates back to 1967 when Eastern Shore pilot Ed Nabb, Sr. started delivering holiday greens (holly) to the island when he realized that the rising sea level had eroded Tangier Island to the point that it no longer supported the growth of holly or other traditional Christmas evergreens.
His son, Ed Nabb Jr., took the reigns upon his father’s passing, growing the event to nearly three dozen pilots and planes carrying holly to the island. This year, the pilots are bringing school supplies for the students and teachers at the Tangier Combined School.
“Teachers on the island can’t just run out to Walmart like we can,” explained Helen Woods, Chesapeake Sport Pilot chief flight instructor and Holly Run coordinator.
Chesapeake Sport Pilot flight school is the main organizer for the sixth year running. In addition CSP has joined this year with AutoGyro USA, Vans Aircraft, and the Chesapeake Flying Club in serving breakfast to the pilots before the flight at the Bay Bridge Airport, in Stevensville.
Santa traveled with the Holly Run pilots to Tangier Island, Va., and greeted the children and gave them candy canes.
Santa came with the “Holly Run” from Bay Bridge Airport to Tangier Island on Saturday, Dec. 10.