WATSONVILLE—He was seen by hundreds joyfully riding an early day, bright red Farmall tractor at the front of the recently opened Staff of Life Natural Foods Market in the East Lake Village Shopping Center in Watsonville.
With both hands clutching the steering wheel and a full fluffy white beard, Santa Claus appeared to be guiding the tractor across the front of the store.
But early Saturday morning, thieves tore Santa loose from his perch and hauled him away into the cold of the night.
“The mannequin is Farmer Green who has been on the tractor in our Santa Cruz store for over 10 years,” said Staff of Life spokesperson Hollie Wendt. “This year we brought him to Watsonville and dressed him like Santa to celebrate this season. We are very sad that Santa has been stolen and hope that somebody finds him and returns him to us.”
TV news showed surveillance footage of a man rolling up to the storefront around 1am. In the footage, he is followed by another man on a bike who quickly clips the plastic ties that hold Santa in place. That man then rips Santa from the tractor, climbs on his bike and clumsily rides off carrying an upside-down Santa under his arm.
Watsonville Police Department Sgt. Brian Fulgoni said police are investigating the theft. No arrests have been made.
“He has been the store mascot for many many years and we are so happy to share him with Watsonville. He has brought smiles to many faces and we hope that we will get him back to be able to bring many more smiles,” Wendt said.