(Editor’s note: This is the first of three stories about the people and organizations who were honored by the Pacific Palisades Community Council last Thursday night.)
The awards for highest volunteer achievements by Pacific Palisades residents and organizations were handed out by the Community Council on December 8 at Cheadle Hall in Temescal Canyon Gateway Park.
Guests were greeted with a glass of champagne, and then chatted and mingled, before the sit-down dinner at the historic dining hall. Entree choices included steak, salmon and vegetarian at festively decorated tables. The meal, prepared by a local chef, included a choice of red or white wine. Dessert featured a tiramisu cake.
Nominations for Citizen of the Year, Golden Sparkplug and Pride of the Palisades awards were sought starting in October.
An awards selection committee of two prior Citizens of the Year (Kevin Niles and Daphne Gronich) and PPCC members Nancy Niles and Andrew Frew, read the applications and made the following selections: Citizen of the Year: Mike Lanning. Sparkplug Awards: James Cragg, Cindy Simon and Tracey Price, and Hazel Tate. Pride of the Palisades: the Historical Society Centennial Celebration Committee (Donna Vaccarino, Barbara Kohn, Randy Young, Harris Smith and Bill Bruns).
Sue Kohl served as emcee for the evening. Incoming City Councilmember Traci Park was in attendance. LAUSD’s Nick Melvoin and deputies from Congressman Ted Lieu, State Senator Ben Allen and Councilmember Mike Bonin presented special certificates.
This editor, who worked closely with the Historical Society throughout the year, was asked to present the Pride award.
The town’s 100th Year Celebration honored the founding of Pacific Palisades on January 14, 1922, when Reverend Charles Holmes Scott oversaw the drawing of 1,000 Founder Certificates, which allowed the purchaser to choose a lot and build a house. By year’s end, the roads were graded, sidewalks and utilities installed and homes under construction.
In 2021, as community leaders discussed how to commemorate the centennial year, the Covid pandemic continued to curb in-person meetings, the Palisades Chamber of Commerce dissolved and there was uncertainty about who should take charge of organizing an appropriate celebration.
That’s when the Historical Society, led by President Barbara Kohn, stepped up to plan an event. Kohn has long been an activist in the Palisades, serving on the Community Council and the Design Review Board, and earlier volunteering as the treasurer for the 20-year “No Oil” campaign.
The Centennial Committee worked tirelessly to produce an impressive program that was held on May 7 at Simon Meadow in Temescal Canyon, close to where the town founders gathered in January 1922.
Long-time resident and DRB member Donna Vaccarino volunteered to serve as chairperson. Town historian, author and former Citizen of the Year Randy Young served as advisor and curator of the Historical Society’s photo archives. Another long-time resident, Bill Bruns, who was editor of the Palisadian-Post for 20 years, worked with six of his former colleagues to produce an impressive 60-page magazine chronicling the history of Pacific Palisades. Harris Smith, who recently retired as a CPA, paid all the invoices for the celebration and the publication while tracking all the donations plus membership and advertising payments.
Bruns praised Vaccarino’s year-long leadership and dedication, noting that “She took charge and never let up as the key organizer and motivator behind the centennial celebration,” which was held inside a giant white tent and featured 12 speakers plus entertainment. She arranged all the logistics, such as street closures, city permits, shuttle service, ticketing, seating and lining up the speakers, and dealt with the concerns associated with a gathering of more than 400 people in the midst of L.A. County health regulations.
The centennial publication, illustrated with vintage historical photos, detailed the town’s history, major events, key victories by various activists, and short profiles of some of the town’s famous past residents. The issue was mailed free to every home in the Palisades.
Kohn, who couldn’t attend last Thursday’s event, sent this statement:
“Palisades Historical Society is honored to be the recipient of the Pride award. Our team worked together and individually to develop a memorable centennial experience for the community – it was a labor of love.
“Our thanks to the many community volunteers who worked the day of the event and to our board members, especially Shirley Haggstrom and Eric Dugdale. My thanks also to Terri Bromberg for her artistic talent and to my friend Eileen Sheiniuk for planting the seed that grew in my mind and developed into the Centennial Commemorative blanket.
“This Centennial year is drawing to an end, and it is now time for the community to look ahead, to think about the future, to consider what they want the Palisades Community to be in the next 100 years,” Kohn wrote.
Vaaccario presented Citizen of the Year Mike Lanning with a Centennial blanket that illustrates the town’s history. (The 60- by 80-inch blanket can be purchased at Collections Antiques . . .And Books on Antioch for $100. Copies of the Centennial publication can also be purchased here.)