The Magic Ship of Christmas is a very unique “car.”

Photo courtesy Troop 799
Santa Claus and his Boy Scout helpers stand in front of the Magic Ship of Christmas in late December before heading out to entertain children and families.

By Audrey Hogen-Esch

Audrey Hogen-Esch

Morgan Hill’s Magic Ship of Christmas has been a part of our community since 1976 — and Scout Troops 799 and 2799 are running it. This festive tradition is an amazing source of funding for our troops, providing money to help us go to summer camps, and so much more.

Morgan Hill’s support is essential to making the magic happen. The Magic Ship runs all December before Christmas and participates in the Kiwanis’ downtown Holiday Lights Parade. This Santa Ship is built around a 1963 Studebaker chassis. It’s available to anyone who wishes to visit Santa. There is a photographer on board and you can buy your photos for only $10 per picture. A team of five adults and five scouts per shift and Santa bring joy and hand out candy canes at many locations and events each year.

Private events are also available. When an event is booked privately, all pictures are free. A location we do publicly is parking in nearby shopping center parking lots for all to see. This year, we plan to bring Santa’s ship to a caroling event in local retirement homes. We even bring Christmas cards for the residents.

The creators of this Magic Ship tradition are John Espinoza and Dan Gregg. Espinoza was the ship’s Santa until 1987, then they went looking for someone new to fill his shoes. Gregg did eventually find another Santa, but he had still missed Espinoza, for he was our first Santa to be on the ship. They have created such a wonderful thing, both for the troops and the community.

The Magic Ship of Christmas is a very unique “car.” If you see it on the local roads, it’s probably going to an event. When the Santa Ship is driving to an event, the driver is accompanied by Santa, of course, but also a car in front and behind the ship directing the vehicle and helping with maneuvering around the city.

Most years, we journey to San Martin to visit Cub Scout Pack 766. The cub scouts enjoy the encounter, and it gives them an incentive to join our troop when they come of age to leave their pack. At this special event, we don’t just give out candy canes, we also give them a present that helps them later in the year during the pinewood derby races.

Our 1963 Studebaker has been the base to the Santa ship for more than 40 years, but it is getting old. We are hoping to raise enough money to build a new ship called “Santa Ship 2.0.” An RV has already been donated to help with the base of this new ship. We hope Santa Ship 2.0 lasts another 40-plus years. The name of our non-profit fundraiser for our new ship is called the MSMH Foundation and if you would like to donate, please visit our Facebook page “The Magic Ship of Christmas,” or email [email protected].

For nearly half a century, the Magic Ship of Christmas has brought joy to children and adults all around Morgan Hill. I hope that it brings joy to residents far in the future as well. Happy 47th Santa Ship season — and Merry Christmas from Troops 799 and 2799!

Audrey Hogen-Esch is a member of Troop 2799. She is 12 years old and goes to Martin Murphy Middle School.