41ºF

‘I get my blessings from blessing others’: After 25 years, Christmas legend, Cheez Claus, to hang up Santa hat

‘If you give, then you’ll receive’

COVINGTON, Va. – All good things must come to an end.

That saying is true in the Alleghany Highlands as a local Christmas legend is stepping into retirement.

10 News sat down with James ‘Cheez Claus’ Smith to get a deeper look at his passion project, one that he fueled for years.

With a nickname like “Cheez”, and a passion like his, Smith is no stranger in the highlands area.

“...And I loved his cheeseburgers, so I cut the cheeseburger name down to Cheez,” Smith said. “I love the highlands. I’ve lived here all my life and I wouldn’t change a thing for nothing.”

That includes the 25 years he’s spent as Cheez Claus, a staple at Christmas parades across the highlands.

The Virginian Review captured him handing out toys over the years, bringing joy to boys and girls, some who need it the most.

“If you give, then you’ll receive. And I tell people I don’t worry about anything. I’m showered with blessings and I don’t think I’m going to ever dry,” Smith said.

Smith made his final preparations at one of his three toy storage areas on Friday.

Saturday is farewell -- the Christmas parade at 5 p.m. on Main Street in Covington will be Cheez Claus’ last.

“I’d done dwindled my IRA down from six figures down to four, so I said, ‘Hey, I have to have something to go on,’” Smith said.

It takes an entire year to buy and collect the toys, or rehab them and get them ready to go. Smith handed out 10,000 toys last year, and he jokes it’s close to one million over his lifetime.

While Cheez Claus is hanging up his hat, he may come back around.

“Cheez Claus is going to still be around. People know that I help everybody anyway. I get my blessings from blessing others,” Smith said.

He’s also a nationally known drag racer and says you’ll see him and his car out in the community.


About the Author: