Surprise Visits by “Da Maui Sleigh” Brings Joy to Island Keiki
By Wendy Osher
It’s been around for at least 16 years, but this year in particular, there’s a buzz surrounding Santa and his sleigh ride visits on Maui.
Last night “Da Maui Sleigh” was sighted on West Kauaʻi Street in Kahului, and attracted a crowd of nearly 200 people, mostly kids and parents who hopped on board for a photo-op with Santa.
The tradition began as a father and son project when James Presbitero saw a small sleigh pass by in his neighborhood and decided to recreate the vision on a larger scale.
According to Presbitero, the first sleigh was constructed at a family home in Kahului and was built out of a trailer, two sheets of ply-board, had a message reading Mele Kalikimaka, and lights on the side powered by a cigarette lighter.
It started out as a small joy ride for family members, but each year progressed, changed designs, added a generator, and traveled wherever the family moved.
For several years, the sleigh was home based at Presbitero’s father’s home in Kīhei. Three years ago, the family patriarch passed away, but wanted the tradition to be kept alive, and the sleigh returned to central Maui.
This year, the sleigh adopted the name “Da Maui Sleigh” was redesigned in blue, and has no other mission than to spread some joy among children in the community. Friends also created a Facebook page this year to further share the experience.
“For me personally, I want Da Maui Sleigh to be known as a thing of happiness for the community,” said Presbitero who shied away from recognition. “For me its just a fun thing that the kids need … kids get to see Santa in a sleigh.”
The sleigh was created completely from out of pocket expenses, and no profit is made. For those who are lucky to catch a glimpse of Da Maui Sleigh, they are reminded to park legally on the roadsides, refrain from blocking drive ways, and be courteous to neighbors.