By CHAZ PLAGER
As the days end earlier, the air gets colder, and the same five holiday songs seem to play over and over on the radio, only one conclusion can be reached: it’s time for Santa Claus to come to Pacific Palisades for HO!HO!HO!
Held this past Saturday at Simon Meadow at the YMCA Christmas tree lot, organizers estimated more than 600 people attended the two-hour afternoon event.
Palisades residents celebrate the most wonderful time of the year – and take photos with Santa – in tradition that began in 1949.
Several stands set up around the edge of the park offered free refreshments, such as Blin Blin’s pancakes, Palisades Garden Cafe’s hot chocolate, and HANX’s coffee, a non-profit coffee blend where 100% of profit made goes to supporting those who serve (I had some. It was great).
The festival Fancy Feet students dancing to Christmas music in the center of the meadow.
Other performers included New Vibe Gymastics, Palisades Studio of Performing Arts and Fitness, Bluecat Music Singers, PaliHi Singers and an ukelele group.
PaliHi students from the YMCA’s Youth & Government program as well as the Ambassador Team volunteered, manning refreshment stands and helping visitors.
“I’m happy to be giving back to my community as a member of it and Pali Ambassador,” said Pali junior Pierce Bergstein. “‘Tis the season of giving, after all!”
Next to the refreshments were face painting and ornament creation with recycled materials.
At 2:45, 45 minutes after the event started, the main attraction arrived– Santa and Mrs. Claus, driven by Fire Station 69 to the meadow. The duo arrived with a trio of “reingoats,” one of which named Asterid tried to eat my pants.
Unfortunately for them, the show was stolen by an unlikely guest; a 175-pound tortoise named Tiptoe. Tiptoe is the pet of Caitlyn Doran, who found great delight in making a turtle wear a Santa hat. “Tiptoe’s definitely a member of our community,” Doran said. “We love the YMCA for hosting and letting Tiptoe be here.”
Gerry Blanck and his karate students put on demonstrations to an appreciative audience. For the first time, a ukulele “orchestra” the Motley Ukes, also entertained.
Additionally, PaliHi Ambassadors sold more than $700 of Fire Station 69 shirts and hats for the LAFD Foundation, which supports firefighters and their families.
This year for the first time anyone buying a raffle ticket prior to the event had a chance of riding on the fire truck with Mr. and Mrs. Claus. Several kids (and their parents) were thrilled to be atop the hook and ladder as it took a leisurely spin though town. The money raised will be used to feed 100 people, who couldn’t afford food this season.
Resident and YMCA Board member Lou Kamer, affectionately known as the Alpha Elf said, “Many people gave (in time or donations or raffle tickets and prizes) and although we targeted for 100, we actually raised enough to feed 500. That is what makes our town so special.”
Alpha Elf, aka Kamer, added, “all the local volunteer elves are looking forward to next year when we get another chance to bring everyone together again. Please give our thanks to all the organizers, the businesses (Blin Blin, HANX, Palisades Garden Café and Hastens Beds) and the neighbors who make HO!HO!HO! possible.”