By CHAZ PLAGER
A bright blue sky shone over the Palisades as the annual holiday festival HO!HO!HO! was held in Simon Meadow on December 9.
This Palisades event was started in 1949 by the Palisades Chamber of Commerce and held every year since (including during Covid when Santa and Mrs. Claus sat in a parking lot and kids were able to drive by and wave).
When the Chamber decided to drop the celebration, a small group of volunteers kept the event alive. This year Tracey Price, Anita Hansen, Heather Lyle, Rosalie Huntington, Jim Kirtley, Cindy Simon, Chase Holiday and the head elf himself, Lou Kamer, made sure the 74 -year tradition continued.
Kamer said, “HO!HO!HO! has never been just about free photos with Santa. It’s about the lasting memories created when everyone shares the best of themselves with the neighbors and, most importantly with those who need it most.”
The day before, YMCA employees and Palisades High School High Ambassadors worked together to set up the venue adjacent to the YMCA Christmas tree lot.
The next day, the ambassadors returned to man the food tables, entertain the kids, and help with general tasks.
“Yeah, we’ve been working hard, but I love doing events like this,” said senior and PaliHi Ambassador Pierce Bergstein. “I loved going to events like this as a kid. Feels great to give back now. Fills me with holiday spirit.”
Pali’s Youth in Government group sold YMCA merch and treats to raise funds for the program. People could also purchase merchandize from Fire Station 69.
To the left of the stage, a petting zoo containing “Reingoats” was set up. The Reingoats were wrangled by Mikaila and Jeaneen Fabbro for the third consecutive year. Three goats named Lady Elsa, Lady Astrid, and Sir Svenn, meandered around the pen, allowing themselves to be petted by inquisitive kids – and eat the clothes of adults who got too close.
At 1p.m., the festival kicked off with Fancy Feet Dance Studio’s group dances. Directed by Emily Tillman, 65 children from first to eighth grade took the stage several at a time, performing jazz, hip hop, and contemporary dances to Christmas songs and the Frozen soundtrack.
About that time Santa and Ms. Claus arrived at the scene, riding atop a Fire Station 69’s firetruck. The two brought cheer and joy to all the children present, graciously listening to their Christmas wishes (while making sure their parents were in earshot).
After Fancy Feet’s groups left the stage, Motley Ukes came up to take their place. Led by Palisadian Lyn Gardner, the group strummed ukuleles and sang holiday music hits like Santa Claus Is Coming To Town, White Christmas, Hanukkah in Santa Monica and Winter Wonderland.
The entertainment continued until 4 p.m. with performances by Heather Lyle’s Bluecat Music, Palisades Studio Performing Arts, Theatre Palisades Youth, New Vibe Gymnastics and the ever-popular students from Gerry Blanck Martial Arts. The program was emceed capably by PaliHi’s Emmett Whitaker, who played the coach in the high school’s fall musical Mean Girls.
The acclaimed Italian restaurant Cinque Terre made and donated 400 meatballs for the event. Flour Pizza handed out slices, and Garden Café donated hot chocolate complete with whipped cream. Starbucks, Ralphs and Gelson’s also gave to the event.
(Author’s note: It’s unfortunately rare these days to simply spend time enjoying oneself with the community, making these kinds of events all the more important. Happy Hanukkah and Merry Christmas, Pacific Palisades.)
(Editor’s note: to purchase or see more of Rich Schmitt’s photos click here.)