A helpful way of measuring the success of a Montecito Beautification Day, aside from the attendance, is by looking at the weather. The entirety of the affair, a period of about four hours, is spent outside, so clear skies and moderate temperatures are more or less a mandate, especially when the impetus of the day is partly to exalt this town’s aesthetic appearance. Each of the approximately 400 people in attendance for the November 4 festivities were afforded lots of luck.

By morning, a bold blue sky reigned above the Upper Village and an implacable sun shone on faces being wiped clean of sweat. Visitors treated themselves to a free breakfast provided by the Four Seasons Biltmore Hotel before ambling to tables backed by committee volunteers to collect a trash cleanup route and a free tee shirt.

For two hours, participants scoured the town’s streets, beaches and underpasses gleaning heaps of trash and dumping them into a mega-dumpster, compliments of MarBorg.

A crowd later reconvened and by 11 am the Upper Village Green was a sea of seafoam green, the determined color of this year’s Beautification tee shirts. Peter Clark, the event’s perennial pianist, was in New York and unable to attend. In his and Hank Allen’s stead was Glendessary Jam, a Santa Barbara folksy group of musicians who picked and sawed their string instruments to produce a calming aggregate sound that was both warm and nostalgic.

Initiating a 30-minute segment that would be spent on commending and felicitating, Mindy Denson, the chair of the Beautification Committee, announced the year’s Beautification award winners, including Barbara Franklin (Charm of Montecito); Bob and Jean Reynolds (New Landscape); Nick and Kathy Zwick (Exceptional Gate); and Robert and Patty Zucherman (Best Estate). Each winner was awarded a commendation and a framed picture of their winning entry, compliments of Montecito Journal.

Austin Lampson, who spearheaded a cleanup of the mural in the Butterfly Beach walkway, was honored for her efforts. As was Barry Siegel, a former Montecito Association Land Use Committee member and adviser on traffic issues, who was named Montecito Volunteer of the Year.

“Barry Siegel is as fine a volunteer as we could possibly have,” said Bob Collector, president of the Montecito Association. “People like Barry Siegel are the reason Montecito is what it is.”

Then, before everyone was called out for a free hot dog and chili lunch provided by the Montecito Fire District, with gelato samples given out by Here’s the Scoop, John Venable, the president of the Montecito Trails Foundation and a Fire District Board member, collected his award as Citizen of the Year.

“Look around us, the mountains and creeks and trees, the enormous physical beauty of Montecito,” Collector said. “I don’t think that would be possible without people like John.”

A Conversation With John Venable

Beautification chair Mindy Denson spoke with John Venable, a 35-year Montecito resident and the 2006 Citizen of the Year.

Q. How did you get to Montecito?

A. Many years ago, my wife, Christy, and I took a long hard look at raising our two children in the Los Angeles area, and decided that is not what we wanted for them. Two weeks after making that decision we took a drive up to Santa Barbara to re-visit surfing areas we both had surfed in the past.

Stopping at the Sheffield off-ramp, we walked across the freeway to Fernald Point (Shark’s Point), walked the beach to Miramar Beach, and found ourselves wishing we could somehow move to Santa Barbara.

Again, two weeks later, by a miracle, a job offer came that required a move to Santa Barbara. We found our home (still in it), and that all took place in 1971.

What do you think makes Montecito beautiful?

Where else can you go and walk to the beach, or the mountains, and into the village, all on trails or foot paths? What better view is there than to look from the top of Bella Vista towards the Santa Barbara Harbor and see our beautiful tree-filled Montecito Valley? An additional answer, and just as important, is the people who live in Montecito, as they really care about where they live, and many give hours and hours to keep Montecito beautiful.