Santa portrayer's treasured sleigh bells disappear

Dec. 26, 2013 @ 02:31 PM

Cliff Snider figures he’s already received one Christmas miracle this year, so another one’s not very likely.
But this is Santa Claus we’re talking about — the 66-year-old High Point man has been portraying St. Nick for more than half a century — and if anybody could score two miracles in one Christmas season, it would be Santa, right?
First, Snider nearly lost his favorite Santa coat several weeks ago, when he absentmindedly drove off in his PT Cruiser with the coat hanging on his passenger-side door handle. When the coat blew off the car, though, a kind motorist tooted her horn and alerted him to what had happened; and then, when he circled back to get the coat, another driver had blocked traffic while her young son jumped from her van and retrieved the coat from the road.
“Here you go, Santa!” the wide-eyed youngster exclaimed as he handed the coat to a grateful Snider. “We saw it blow off your car!”
In his haste to get out of the road — and get the boy out of the road, too — Snider gave him a quick thank-you hug, but neglected to ask his name, which he later regretted. A couple of weeks later, though, at one of his Santa appearances, Snider had a chance meeting with the same boy and this time got his name — Wyatt — and posed for a few photos with him. He also gave Wyatt a thank-you gift for his role in what Snider considered a Christmas miracle.
Now, Snider is hoping and praying for a second Christmas miracle — the return of his cherished sleigh bells, which were a gift from his best friend and which he has taken to all of his Santa appearances for years. This time, he accidentally left the sleigh bells on top of his car when he was loading up for an appearance, and they blew off somewhere along his route.
“It’s happened a few times this season,” Snider says, explaining he has lost — but then recovered — a Christmas CD, a calendar and a coffee mug the same way.
“So I know what’s going on,” he says. “I’m moving so fast to get from place to place during the Christmas season that I’m just being absentminded.”
Snider lost the sleigh bells early Sunday morning, en route to an appearance in Mount Pleasant, S.C. His wife, Janie, agreed to drive Snider to the appearance, so he was moving his props from his car to Janie’s. When he found her car locked, though, he put the sleigh bells on her car’s roof — in a recessed area formed by the sunroof — while he went to get the key. When he returned to the car, he’d forgotten about the sleigh bells, and they drove off with the bells still on the roof.
“We got on the 311 bypass, and soon after that we heard something go thump-thump-thump, and I thought I heard a little tinkling sound,” Snider recalls. “I thought something was shifting in the trunk, so I wasn’t concerned and we didn’t stop.”
When he got to Mount Pleasant and began donning his Santa suit, he realized what must’ve happened.
“My sleigh bells were nowhere to be found,” he says. “I was just heartbroken, because my best friend gave me those bells at least 15 years ago.”
Snider’s longtime friend, Nelson Pollock, gave the bells to Snider after he had admired them during a visit to Pollock’s home.
“They were the most gorgeous set of sleigh bells I’ve ever seen,” Snider says. “He gave them to me for Christmas that year, and I treasured them. Not only were they beautiful, but they represented him giving up something his family enjoyed so I could use them in my portrayal of Santa Claus.”
The set consists of a leather harness with four hand-forged brass bells and a pair of brass rings at either end.
“They were my signature,” Snider says, explaining that the bells announced his presence whenever he entered a room as Santa. “I’ve always told children Rudolph loaned them to me.”
So when Snider got back from Mount Pleasant Sunday night, he went back to 311 — in the rain — to look for the sleigh bells.
“I drove the loop a couple of times from Greensboro Road to Kivett Drive, but I didn’t see them,” he says. “I even got out of the car and walked up and down the road. I went back the next day and went all the way down to Business 85, but I still never saw them.”
Snider hopes someone found the bells and will return them once they learn of his quest to get them back. He’s even offering a reward.
“They’re just very meaningful to me,” he says. “Even when I heard that little sound when they fell off, it’s almost like they were telling me goodbye.”
jtomlin@hpe.com | 888-3579

Christmas reward

Cliff Snider says he’ll give a reward for the return of his sleigh bells, which went missing Sunday when they blew off his car en route to one of his Santa Claus appearances.
If you found the bells, you can contact Snider at 889-5130.