For many years, the holiday celebration put on by the Sierra Madre Chamber of Commerce was called the Holiday Open House. A few years back, the Chamber decided to go with “Dickens Village,” and added the horse and buggy ride, period costume dressed carolers, etc. Truth be told, though, there’s a lot more of OUR village involved in this celebration than there is Dickens.
Every year for the last several years, Rotary Club has taken on the task of decorating the street lamps with pine garland and ribbons, giving the downtown an instant holiday look. This is done the weekend before Thanksgiving. On that same weekend, members of the Sierra Madre City College, recruited and coordinated by Billy Sullivan, Jr. of The Bottle Shop, construct the stable in Kersting Court, a stable that the City College donated in 1997. Not long after the stable is put up, Osti Tree Service drops off palm fronds to be used to cover the shingles on the roof, giving it a more authentic look.
The creche figures are stored free of charge all year long in the basement at Bank of the West, until it’s time for the Chamber to bring them out and place them in the stable. This year, the figures underwent a major restoration by Friends of the Arts, a group of local artists, so they were brought up from the local residence where the work took place, instead. Arnold’s Frontier Hardware and Gifts donated pallets on which to place the figures, which hopefully will reduce the risk of the water damage that made this year’s restoration a necessity. Santa Anita Park donated hay to cover the pallets and dress up the stable.
Speaking of Bank of the West, for several years now they have allowed the Chamber to commandeer their driveway on the Saturday after Thanksgiving to become a snow sled run, which is enjoyed by hundreds of kids (and adults, too). This year, for the first time, the parking lot behind Bank of the West was also transformed into a winter wonderland with a choo choo train ride. To make the ride area a little more holiday like, Bean Town donated several large blowup Christmas ornaments and decorated the area with lots of Christmas lights.
Renaissance Plaza management opened up the plaza for “Art Alley,” where local artists had an opportunity to display and sell their art. Leonora Moss provided the ribbon for and created the bows that adorned the tree. Public Works assisted with putting up the tree, in between hanging the holiday banners from the light posts all over the downtown area. Valero and Bank of the West both donated space on their property to be used to provide portable restrooms for the influx of holiday shoppers.
Sierra Madre Kiwanis donated money to purchase mini-living trees, which were decorated by students at six local schools – Bethany, Gooden, Mama Pete’s, SM Community Nursery School, SM Elementary School and St. Rita. These trees were auctioned off in a silent auction, with the money raised helping to cover the expense of bringing in the snow. Other sponsors included the Arcadia Association of Realtors, which helped pay for the choo choo train ride and Athens Services, which, as an Annual Silver Sponsor of the Chamber, also helped cover the cost of the event.
Richard Mays and Melanie Shewmaker, two members of the recently certified Sierra Madre PD Volunteers, assisted with traffic control during the event. The Sierra Madre Fire Dept. provided a “sleigh” for Santa, transporting him to the crowds waiting for him at Kersting Court. All four Princesses from the 2012 Sierra Madre Rose Float were on hand to assist Santa with the children, handing out candy canes and helping children on and off Santa’s lap. This duty is performed by a rotating group of new Princesses of SMRFA year after year, the one constant being that is under the direction of Princess coordinator Donna Sutcliffe. In addition to the hours she spends keeping a watchful eye on the Princesses as they help Santa, each year Donna irons the white aprons the Princesses wear, after the event she washes, dries and returns them to the Chamber for storage until next year. Incidentally, those aprons were worn this year over outfits provided for the girls by Angels Everywear, and in previous years, over outfits provided by Attitude. Mayor John Buchanan lighted the Christmas tree for the first time of this holiday season.
Sierra Madre Starbucks manager Kate Lee recruited former members of the Citrus Singers to carol around town. Creative Arts Group hosted its annual Family Art Project at their compound, this year’s theme: “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner for the Holidays?”
Boy Scout Troop 373, from Sierra Madre Congregational Church, volunteered their time to staff the snow sled run, carrying the “sleds” back up the hill after the children (and adults) had had their thrill riding down the slopes. Barry Schwam, who has performed many years at the Sierra Madre Playhouse during the holidays, this year worked the entire day selling tickets for the horse and buggy ride, a very un”Scrooge” like role for him.
The Planning Dept. reviews the Chamber’s TUP application each year, coordinating with the various departments, Community and Personnel Services, Public Works, and Police and Fire to make sure that all activities ensure public safety and conformance with City codes and ordinances. Public Works processes an encroachment permit application to allow local businesses to conduct sidewalk sales, if they would like to. An event business license is required for the vendors in Kersting Court, and City staff processes that license, as well.
Local business owners donate window space to hang posters announcing the coming of Dickens Village, and local print media Mountain Views News and Sierra Madre Weekly published press releases to promote it as well. This website, as well as Sierra Madre Patch.com and MVN and SMW’s sites, also helped get the word out. The Chamber had a Facebook page, and many of its “Friends” helped spread the word. And this year, for the first time, Sierra Madre’s own radio station RadioFishbowl.com helped spread the word, both on Facebook and over the internet “airwaves.”
It was mentioned earlier in this article, and others, that the creche figures were restored this year by Friends of the Arts. The Chamber is paying for the supplies to make that happen, however, each of the Sierra Madre Christian churches helped fund the project as well. Bethany, Episcopal Church of the Ascension, Sierra Madre Congregational Church, St. Rita Catholic Church, and United Methodist Church of Sierra Madre all donated funds to the artists and Friends of the Arts.
As crazy as it may sound, with all the people and organizations that have been mentioned as having played a part in making this a truly community event, I can guarantee you that someone or some group has been left out. Please don’t hesitate to let me know, and I will gladly amend the article.
Overseeing all this activity is the Sierra Madre Chamber of Commerce. Says Matt Krantz, president of the Chamber of Commerce, “We really want to thank all the people and groups that contribute to making Dickens Village the great event that it is. There is so much work and so many contributions by so many that are a part of this event, that it really is a special opportunity to see Sierra Madre being Sierra Madre. ” Matt doesn’t just say these things, he knows from experience. In addition to donating Bean Town’s blow-ups for the wonderland, Matt set up and tore down that area, helped set up the tree and the lights, ran errands all over town, including picking up the generator for the blow-ups, candy canes for Santa, and bell ornaments for the tree. He personally recruited the Boy Scouts to help at the snow and Barry Schwam for the horse and buggy booth. He and his brother-in-law Jacob Deveau also worked all five hours pushing the sledders down the hill. And these are just some of his many contributions.
So, as you can see, it truly does take a village, in this case our Foothill Village, to make Dickens Village. Below this photo gallery (click an image to enlarge it), you’ll find two videos, one of the citrus Singer Alumni Carolers singing in Kersting Court, and the other a slide show of Dickens Village photos that have the Carolers singing as the soundtrack. Enjoy!!