The town’s patriotic theme this year was Celebrating a Different Kind of 4th and the annual home decorating contest, sponsored by Joan Sather and Susan Montgomery, was also different.
The two realtors, who work at Sotheby’s, usually ask businesses in town to donate prizes for the winners, but with this year’s Covid-19 shutdowns, they instead donated the prizes themselves, including gift certificate to Casa Nostra Restaurant, KaynDaves, Starbucks and Anawalt.
“We tried to support the local merchants,” Montgomery said.
“Black Ink owner Patti Black donated the colorful wreath won by Terri and Stephen Lantz on El Medio,” Sather said. The Lantz’s were second in the “Proof Through the Night” category.
Montgomery added, “Joan liked the wreath so much, she went back and bought one for her house.”
Residents were urged to enter in one of five categories:
1) Hometown Style (homemade decorations) – The winning homeowners were Bev Lowe and John Riley on Kagawa. Runner-up was Jean Sharp.
2) In This Together (using the Covid-19 theme) – The winner was the Hassett Family on DePauw. Runner-up was Trica Taper.
3) Proof Through the Night (light decorations) – The winners were Sharon and Dennis White on Chautauqua. Runner-up was the Lantz family.
4) Americana Award (national treasures and traditions) – The winner Michelle Villemaire with her Village Green yarn-bombing decorations. Runners-up were Kathleen & Mike McCrosky.
5) Grand Champion (best overall display) – The winners were Bill and Cindy Simon on Toyopa. Runner-up was Laura Diamond.
Once a house was decorated, the resident was asked to take a photo and upload it to the decorating contest Facebook page. On at least two occasions, the White’s family home was nominated by a passerby and the Villamaire’s yarn bombing was nominated by Village Green board members.
On July 4, Sather and Montgomery viewed the homes and PAPA representative Rob Weber toured them on July 5. After they consulted, the judges announced the winners and prizes were handed out on July 8.
SIMONS ON TOYOPA: GRAND CHAMPION AWARD WINNERS
In 2016, the first year Bill and Cindy Simon decorated their home on Toyopa, they received an honorable mention.They won the following year because “The judges appreciated the clever, homemade look and the wonderful detailing.”
This year, the Simons painted red, white and blue figures that paraded along the fence and were the unanimous favorite among the judges.
“I won the Grand Champion?” Cindy said, upon hearing the news. “Woohoo!”
The Simons are always busily involved in the town’s Fourth of July celebration, usually as one of the sponsors of the Will Rogers 5/10K Race and then announcing the passing entries at a location along the parade route.
“One day I was whining about there being no 5/10K race and parade this year and it hit me that I could create my own and share it,” Cindy Simon told Circling the News. She noted that her garage was full of Amazon boxes and wine cartons that people had dropped by for her artistic endeavors. “So, I started cutting them up to make figures and devised my own parade of Palisades characters. It was especially fun to make the marching band member with the trombone!”
Simon said that her friend Donna Fol suggested the red, white and blue colors and she hired handyman Lorenzo Argueta to attach her cardboard creations onto wooden poles and stick them into the front lawn hedge.
“Lorenzo really got into the project and was suggesting I get balloons for the lady, whirligigs for the men, a fire engine to bring up the rear…all great ideas!!” Simon said, noting that her husband as usual was her biggest champion.
“He would come outside several times a day to ‘get the mail’ and then stop to chat with passers-by, sharing ‘Oh, my wife made these.’ After July 4, the figures all went to the YMCA’s Simon Meadow, where the figures were tied to the fence to greet everyone at camp drop-off and pick-up.
The Simons, who moved to the Palisades in 1990, have three adult children: Willie, Lindsay and Griffith.
“We’ve lived on the same street for 30 years,” said Bill, who works in investments and is also a professor of economics at UCLA.
Cindy said that during Covid-19, she has had time to devote to her “crazy” art projects.
“On my Instagram (csimon440), I’ve done an IGTV series called ‘The Teeny Tiny Family in Pacific Palisades, CA during COVID 19.’ I use lots of cardboard and found objects. I spend a lot of time in my garage these days with Alexa playing Frank Sinatra, while I slice and use my glue gun.”
HASSETTS ON DE PAUW: IN THIS TOGETHER
Once again, the Hassetts on DePauw showed their Fourth of July spirit by capturing the “In This Together” category.
The Hassetts were runners-up in 2011 and won the contest in 2012 and 2016. This year they impressed the judges with their lawn figurines wearing Covid-19 masks.
“Kate, 16, and I have been making masks since the beginning of the pandemic,” said mom Jackie. “At first we were just making them for ourselves and then also donated them to a teen homeless shelter in Hollywood. Now we are sending them to our family across the country and Kate has also started selling them as part of her clothing business.” Kate attends Harvard-Westlake, but like so many kids, spent the spring semester at home.
“At the beginning of Stay at Home, our sunroom was converted to an art studio and sewing center,” Jackie said. “Since wearing masks is the most patriotic thing you can do right now, we thought it was appropriate that our figures would wear them.”
For son Jack, 18, a senior at Harvard-Westlake, and a pitcher on the baseball team, Jackie said, “The team started the season off really well, sweeping Loyola in the opening series of league play. It was so sad that the season had to end so early. He was more upset about this than graduation.”
Jack played PPBA at the Recreation Center and his dad, Jim, a partner at Apollo Global Management, used to coach in the league. Jackie said that her son “will be playing baseball next year at NYU.”
In 1996, the Hassetts moved to the Palisades from an apartment in Westwood. “The 4th was our first holiday we celebrated here, and I was just so excited to decorate our house,” Jackie said. “I’ve been doing it ever since and still get excited. Now that the 4th is over, I can’t wait to decorate for Halloween.” In addition to the family all pitching in to decorate, “Pat and Michael Peters help us, too.”
Jackie said that she likes to refresh decorations a bit each year, but “it was difficult finding items this year.”
Any decorating advice to people who have never done it before? “Just have fun and decorate in a way that brings you joy,” she said.
LOWE/RILEY ON KAGAWA: HOMETOWN STYLE
Bev Lowe and John Riley, who have lived on Kagawa since 1983, are now two-time winners in the home decorating contest.
Lowe remembers entering the first time in 2013, when they won honorable mention. The following year they won the contest, but did not participate again until this year. She noted that she always decorates for Halloween and Christmas and “I put out jumbo Easter eggs for Easter.”
Lowe said she has started to add more lights, so that at night, the property sparkles.
There’s a large cedar tree in the front yard that is usually decorated in some fashion. “I used to hang a lot more on the cedar,” Lowe said. “It used to be the center of my decorations; however, we have gotten too old to climb up that high on the tree.”
Husband John retired from UCLA last July, where he was a professor in the Department of Economics. He received his doctorate at MIT and his work on auctions and game theory has been described as particularly influential, characterizing the form of optimal auctions and incorporating asymmetric and risk-averse bidders.
Lowe is also retired from her business, Baf Consulting (accounting services), and has taken on a volunteer job as the new editor of the Pacific Palisades Task Force on Homelessness newsletter.
Their daughter Ali Riley, who attended St. Matthew’s, Harvard-Westlake and Stanford, is a professional soccer player. She’s captain of New Zealand’s women’s team (dad is originally from New Zealand), and has played in the Olympics and for FC Rosengard, Chelsea, Bayern Munich and Orlando Pride.
Unfortunately, after her transfer to Florida, the Pride announced it would not play during the 2020 season, so Riley went back to Sweden.
“We miss traveling to visit her, most recently in Orlando,” Lowe said. “We’re hoping we can visit her this summer – but who knows with the COVID. Luckily, she is an EU citizen, so we believe that we are allowed into Europe as parents.”
Lowe and Riley continue to enjoy time at the Jonathan Club, and they have nothing but accolades for Pacific Palisades. “I can easily run to the beach or onto the trails in Will Rogers and Temescal,” Bev said. “I live love living in a village where there is a sense of neighborliness.”
WHITES ON CHAUTAUQUA: PROOF THROUGH THE NIGHT
The winners were Sharon and Dennis White for their decorative lights.
VILLEMAIRE/VILLAGE GREEN: AMERICANA AWARD
Tthe Americana Award (national treasures and traditions) went to Michelle Villemaire who yarnbombed the Village Green.
Villemaire has yarn-bombed the Green for five years – and before that, the installation was on Monument before the construction of Caruo’s mall.
Her projects always went up in March to coincide with National Women’s History month, highlighting famous women, actresses, scientists, doctors, politicians and singers/dancers.
This year was different. Not only were there stay-at-home orders because of the virus, but also the death of the family’s beloved pet dog, Bowie, and the threat of rain, put everything on hold.
Villemaire decided to go forward with a mini bomb on the Green designed especially for July 4th. Although it does not feature women of note, the talented designer still provides an important message — paying homage to a Palisades 4th and also to the political climate in the nation.
“I wanted to yarn bomb the folding chairs that were put out days in advance along the parade route,” Villemaire said. Every year, days before the Fourth, chairs are placed on the parade route. “Their hodgepodge beauty and the absence of our bodies in them is intended to reflect the uncertainty of living in this time of global pandemic.
“They also represent our unwillingness to sit by during this time of civil uprising,” Villemaire continued. “At the same time, you’ll notice that the chairs are linked together, a sign of hope and unity for the future.”
UNOFFICIAL WINNER: TOO CUTE FOR WORDS