Santa whisked into town and spread a little cheer and inspired visions for something more next year.
On Dec. 7, organizers decorated the grassy area in front of the fire station with colorful Christmas lights, wreaths and a Christmas tree that was donated by Save Mart Supermarkets in Los Banos. Santa Claus rode in on a fire engine, listened to kids’ Christmas wishes and handed out candy canes.
“This is the first time (we’ve) ever had a tree lighting in Santa Nella’s history,” said Patricia Ramos-Anderson, community advocate and organizer. “There’s no holiday spirit here. We wanted to start a tradition.”
Members of Valley Christian Center also helped organize the event. Community members who live in the mobile home park next to the fire station brought their family and children to see Santa. Ramos-Anderson said the community needed some holiday cheer after a fire knocked out gas and electric services inside the mobile home park in September and power was lost for close to two months. She also said there have been a number of fatalities close to the highway within the last six-months.
“It’s not just lighting up for the holidays,” she said, “but that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel for Santa Nella, because it’s always had a negative reputation.”
Ramos-Anderson said she was thankful to the Home Depot in Los Banos, which donated the Christmas lights, and to Walmart in Los Banos, which donated refreshments, utensils and candy canes.
Isalina Silva, of Santa Nella, said when she heard about the tree lighting, she thought of the kids right away. “So they can enjoy Christmas,” Silva said. “For me to help, it means I’m helping out the community.”
Manuel Vaca, a mobile home park resident, said the event brings everyone together. “We just want something better for the community,” he said, “because they don’t have much.”
Santa Nella has a population of 1,380. Next year, organizers plan to have a bigger tree lighting event that will include toys for the children.