At 10:50 a.m. Sunday, December 15, Circling the News received a report from NORAD… Santa has been spotted over Alaska, with strong tailwinds, on his way to Pacific Palisades.
At noon, Santa and Mrs. Claus parked their reindeer atop the Fire Station 69 roof, at Carey and Sunset, and descended into the station to meet the firefighters and captains.
Santa and Mrs. Claus and their personal elves joined Pacific Palisades co-mayors Janice and Billy Crystal, a turtle and a Ho!Ho!Ho! organizer Lou Kamer for a quick photo op before boarding the hook and ladder firetruck for a ride to Simon Meadow.
Slowly, the truck traveled through town and the Claus family, elves, and co-mayors waved to enthusiastic residents on the streets. Cars honked and everyone was jolly as Santa loudly proclaimed, “Merry Christmas.”
The firetruck arrived at Simon Meadow, at the Palisades-Malibu YMCA Christmas tree lot, where the dignities descended, greeting a crowd of about 1,000 people, who were already celebrating Ho!Ho!Ho! amidst a forest of Christmas trees.
“When planning this, we all asked what we could do to make this fun and memorable for everyone, especially kids,” Lou Kamer said. “As I walked around Simon Meadow during the event, I saw so many kids, teens and parents smiling, talking with one another and having a great time. It reminded me that the heart of Pacific Palisades is still alive and kicking despite our recent challenges.”
Kamer set up a Ho!Ho!Ho! web site (palitown.com) and said that more than 3,000 visitors had checked out the schedule prior to the event. There are photos posted of the event.
The many events scheduled during the four-hour time period were free for kids and family and sponsored by community residents and businesses.
Bleachers were set up for the scheduled performances, which included Fancy Feet dancers, Gerry Blanck martial arts demonstrations and numerous vocalists and vocal groups that included Dana Greene Vocal Works, Blue Cat Music, Heather Lyle Vocal group, the ATAM (Academy of Technology, Art and Music) musicians band, and Palisades High School advanced vocal group.
Ho!Ho!Ho! organizer Lisa Glantz, who was honored with a Pacific Palisades Community Council Sparkplug for organizing the event last year, said that the bake sale almost didn’t happen.
Glantz spoke with resident Joan Rochman on the Friday evening before the event. “I mentioned that we had to let go of the bake sale as no one could lead it,” Glantz said. She told CTN last year’s organizer, Ivy Greene, was unavailable.
Rochman volunteered, ‘I can do it, I love to bake.’
Glantz took a breath and said ‘Joan, there may be 400 people.’ Joan said, “That’s ok, I can do it.”
Glantz told CTN, “I have wonderfully learned to accept what seems impossible when it comes to Ho!Ho!Ho!”and told Rochman “Okay.”
Rochman responded, “What time should I be there? and “Should I make a sign?”
Children stood in line to receive balloon animals and other exotic requests from Steven Bailey aka the “Balloon Man.” Resident Diane Bleek donated for his services – and Bailey, a Palisades resident who graduated from Palisades High School in 1983, was more than happy to keep the Ho!Ho!Ho! tradition alive.
Face painter Sari Martin, who works for Groza Learning Center, painted some exquisite images, including characters from “Frozen,” the Grinch and reindeer. She was sponsored by Pam Finck.
Another big hit with the children was the cookie decorating table manned by Patricia Dunne.
Families and kids loved the photo booth provided by Trevor Shickman. People stood in front of a green screen. The resulting photo looked as if they were in the midst of a holiday scene.
Meanwhile, kids waited their turn to have a moment with Santa.
Santa reported that many of the children wanted electronics, telephones, drones, puppies or horses, which meant that Santa had to ask “Have you been good this year? – All the time or most of the time?”
No promises were made for live animals or electronics, but Santa also said he would speak to parents about the requests. Legos was once again the most popular toy asked for, although one child wanted a racing car. Initially he wanted a real one, but then decided a smaller one might be okay.
One child wanted to know how old Santa was and when Mrs. Claus said he was 125, the child was quite impressed, until the missus admitted to being 131. The child wasn’t sure that it was okay that Mrs. Claus was older than Santa.
Philanthropy was alive and well at the event, as people donated toys that will go to the toy drive at Vittorios.
James Kwon from the Garden Café donated hot chocolate, and Cinque Terre West gave away their fabulous chocolate and plain croissants.
PaliHi Ambassadors sold L.A. Fire Department gear, such as T-shirts and hats. More than $600 was raised that will go to the station.
“It was heartwarming to see so many people – adults and kids of all ages – so happy,” said Rosalie Huntington, one of the organizers. “Thanks to the many volunteers who gave so much of their time, talent and even cash, to make this Ho!Ho!Ho! happen. Of course, thanks to Lisa Glantz for bringing us together in the first place.”
Ho!Ho!Ho! organizers sent a special thanks to Jim Kirtley at the YMCA and Joyce Whitehead at the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy for their help.
Glantz said, “I must quote a friend and fellow organizer, Barbara Edelman. ‘Community doesn’t exist unless we make it exist.’
“Ho!Ho!Ho! is about reveling in stepping up to spread good cheer,” she said. “It doesn’t take glitz and glamour or production value. Ho!Ho!Ho! is about intention. The common thread in giving from one’s heart is the success of this Palisades tradition.”