Santa didn’t get run over by his reindeer, but he appears to have had a dust-up with an F-104 jet during an elaborate Christmas display on Tom and Alice Blair’s farm on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.
The tableau in St. Michaels depicts the aftermath of a mid-air collision involving Santa’s sleigh full of toys and a Cold War-era Lockheed Starfighter from the fictitious St. Michaels Air National Guard and piloted by “Capt. Scrooge.”
An elf retrieves a tricycle from the jet’s tail wing as Santa notices Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer is stuck in the fuselage and the pilot sits off to the side fixing a broken Radio Flyer wagon. Santa’s sleigh has been pierced by the jet’s nose; reindeer wander nearby; and presents are strewn over the ground. A sign on a nearby fence reads “Oops!”
The scene is the latest in a series of unconventional displays that the Blairs put on their property throughout the year to mark various holidays, including Halloween and Memorial Day.
Tom Blair, an author and a retired businessman who collects and flies World War II planes that he keeps at the nearby Easton Airport, said he does the displays for his friends, neighbors and 16 grandchildren to enjoy.
“It’s inspired by the fact that Christmas is coming and my friends and neighbors were expecting me to put out something noteworthy, and I can’t put out the same thing” year after year, he said.
For this season’s display, he wanted to incorporate one of his vintage warbirds.
“I was thinking, ‘What could I do with this?’ and I had the idea of it impaling Santa’s sleigh and Santa pulling Rudolph from the air intake,” he said.
While it may sound a bit dark, no people or animals were harmed in the making of this display.
“It’s a happy thing,” Blair said. “I meant for it to be humorous and non-offensive. I’ve probably got 99 extremely positive comments and one slightly critical comment.”
It’s also a traffic stopper, with drivers pausing day and night along the 26000 block of St. Michaels Road to gawk and take photos. Images have begun to show up online.
“It’s gone viral,” Blair said. “It’s gone around the Internet.”
It stands out because of the jet, the attention to detail and the sense of humor, said Laurence “Laurie” Driggs III, a retired TWA captain who lives four miles away and is one of many Eastern Shore residents who have stopped to photograph it.
“They have certainly outdone themselves,” Driggs said.
Driggs said he “did a double take” when he first saw the display from the road, with the jet appearing as if it made an emergency landing that would have impressed Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, the pilot who safely ditched US Airways Flight 1549 in the Hudson River off Manhattan on Jan. 15, 2009.
“When you look at it, you think, ‘Wow!,’ ” Driggs said. “The airplane is the centerpiece, and the details are wonderful. They’re all quite funny.”
Blair, 67, gained attention last year as the author of “Poorer Richard’s America: What Would Ben Say?” — a book that describes what Benjamin Franklin might think if he were alive in America today. Former NBC anchor Tom Brokaw wrote the preface, and it appeared on the New York Times’ list of bestsellers.
Blair said that making the display on St. Michaels Road took him and his wife about a month. He transported the jet, sans engine, from the airport in Easton on a flatbed truck and positioned it to look as if it had landed there.
He made the sleigh out of plywood and the reindeer’s legs out of baseball bats covered with old carpeting. The pilot is a mannequin, dressed in his own flight suit. His wife made the elf’s costume.
They finished it in early December and plan to leave it up at least until the end of the year.
Blair estimates that the display cost “in the hundreds of dollars” because he already owned the jet and most of the other materials.
He concedes that creating elaborate holiday displays every year means that people tend to expect them, but he likes the reaction. This past week, he said, someone from the National Air and Space Museum called seeking permission to use photographs of the display in a newsletter.