Andrew Dys

‘America’s Santa’ leaves Rock Hill ChristmasVille, but says tradition will endure

Santa Dave Jordan at ChristmasVille in 2009.
Santa Dave Jordan at ChristmasVille in 2009. Andy Burriss aburriss@heraldonli

Say it ain’t so, Santa!

Everybody knows Santa Claus is old. White beard, well, he’s a geezer, right? He’s supposed to be.

But somehow, age and life have finally caught up to “Santa Dave.” The man who has been Santa Claus to thousands of Rock Hill and York County children at ChristmasVille for the past decade is leaving Rock Hill’s annual four-day tribute to all things Christmas.

Sadly, Santa said it is so.

Rheumatoid arthritis limited “Santa Dave” Jordan’s ability to handle Santa duties at last year’s festival, so the show is over for the original ChristmasVille Santa. This is a Vietnam War combat veteran whose bowl-full-of-jelly belly is real and whose white beard (ouch!) is real and – far more importantly – whose love is real.

“I was hobbling around this past year, and it was time – ChristmasVille needs a Santa who can walk around and be part of everything,” Jordan said. “Santa is far more important than any person. Santa Claus is the best part of the human heart.”

With Santa Dave’s help, St. Nick always knew how to make a big entrance at ChristmasVille. He flew in by helicopter, rumbled in on a motorcycle, and even arrived inside an ambulance.

And Jordan does not just play Santa, he lives it. His wife, Nona Jordan, was always Mrs. Claus. He has taught Santas at “Santa School.” He has flown all the way across the world to Iraq and Afghanistan to be “America’s Santa” for troops and kids. He has been Santa for tens of thousands of travelers at Charlotte-Douglas International Airport.

He has held children who cried over dead parents and siblings and who asked for something as simple as a blanket to keep warm for Christmas. He has told every kid who, with tears in their eyes, asked “the question”:

“If you believe, Santa Claus is real for you.”

Just last week, when Jordan was at his doctor’s office for a test, a little girl, maybe 5 years old, was in the waiting room. She rushed up to him and said, “Santa Claus! I knew you are real. You have to go to the doctor, too?”

Jordan hugged that little girl and said Santa sure is real.

But the changing of the guard comes in every job. Time does not stop, even for Santa.

Klaus Schmolke — who was Santa Claus to thousands of kids at Piedmont Medical Center over three decades and donned the red suit to bring up the rear of the Rock Hill Christmas parade all those years – died last March.

Santa will be replaced at ChristmasVille with the same guy who was so great in the 2015 Christmas parade and more, Rock Hill native Tony Adams. Adams is big and jolly, and Jordan said he will be great.

“And he can sing, too!” Jordan said.

Adams lives in coastal Georgia and people around the state and country know him for his cruise ship singing and as Clemson's official Santa - he even was with the Tigers at the National Championship game this year.

"I have big Santa shoes to fill - Santa Dave Jordan is a legend and I am honored to follow him," Adams said. "I was a coach in Rock Hill for 10 years - some of the kids I coached, I probably will be Santa for their kids now."

Jordan will still handle a few Santa Claus appearances this holiday season as his health allows.

The past 10 years at ChristmasVille were wonderful, he said, bringing a joy that he will treasure forever. He never once got tired of the thousands and thousands of pictures with kids.

He never tired of being the face of one of the South’s largest Christmas events.

“I received the best present in the world every day in all those years – the joy in a child’s smile when he or she told Santa what they wanted for Christmas,” Jordan said. “The kids thought they were asking about getting a present – but I got one every time.”

Andrew Dys: 803-329-4065