The Holiday Spirit

Now more than at any time since at least the founding of this newspaper in 1995, local merchants need your support. If you are planning on doing any shopping before Christmas, you ought to visit Montecito’s abundant variety of retailers first. Yes, prices will probably be a bit more at a small shop than you may find in a megastore in some faceless shopping arcade, but unless you’re Scrooge McDuck, those savings won’t change your life, whereas, a few more dollars at a boutique could spell the difference between staying in business or not. Besides, often you’ll find unique, quirky, one-of-a-kind, or handmade items along Coast Village Road and in the upper village, stuff you won’t find at Malls R Us. So, before piling in the car for that extended carbon-spewing trip to the big corporate-run giant box, spend a couple of hours inspecting the local merchandise. What you find may surprise – and delight – you.

This Friday, December 5, from 2 to 4pm, for example, upper village merchants will honor MERRAG (Montecito Emergency Response & Recovery Action Group) and the Montecito Fire Protection District. The event will take place by the fountain directly across from Tecolote Book Shop.

Nearly 100% of the merchants in the upper village and many stores and restaurants on Coast Village Road have donated to this event. All donated items will be raffled off and raffle tickets will be earmarked for a particular item ($5 per ticket). Those items include a man’s watch from Bryant and Sons, lunch at Four Seasons Biltmore, dinner at Tre Lune, special clothing items from Lana Marme, wine from Montecito Village Grocery, and, as they say, “lots more.”

Additionally, Bill and Carol Foley, who live in Hope Ranch, have donated a 22-foot tree to the upper village and it will be decorated by Kim Curtis. Two hundred Christmas ornaments will be auctioned off and purchasers will be able to write a personalized message and hang it on the tree.

Food and refreshment will be gratis: pizza from Via Vai, home-baked cookies made by parents and parishioners from Mount Carmel, and coffee made and delivered personally by Eric from Caribbean Coffee; Montecito Association is providing the tables, and Gerd Jordano is covering anything and everything else. The public is, of course, invited and encouraged to attend. Events like this, by the way, are why you should always consider shopping locally before venturing forth...

The "Thanks" is in the "Giving"

Every year since I can remember, Rose Marie and James Towle have decorated their estate gate on East Valley Road for each holiday occasion. For Veteran’s Day, they hang a huge U.S. flag and park a Hummer outside their gates; for Christmas, one can see Santa and his reindeer flying across the entrance way. They also decorate for Easter, Independence Day, and Thanksgiving.

On Thanksgivings past, the Towles have given out hundreds of turkeys to whoever shows up, although the turkeys are primarily meant for the workers that come in and out of Montecito daily, without whom this village would grind to a halt. Assisted by Jesus and Alberto, who dress the part of pilgrims, they hand out the birds until they are all gone.

Rather than turkeys, this year Rose Marie and James changed it up and decided to give out home-cooked pumpkin pies. What made that special to me was that the pies were made in our kitchen by Mrs. Jacqueline Buckley, my beautiful wife (we just celebrated our two-month wedding anniversary). She baked over 100 pies and delivered them to the Towles who graciously handed them out.

You should know too that the Towles have never asked for recognition, nor sought it. We feel, however, others in Montecito ought to know how generous some of its fellow citizens are.

So thank you James and Rose Marie for keeping the tradition alive and reminding us of the warmth and kindness that makes the holidays special. And, thank you Jacqueline for completing the insane task of baking 100 pies in a single day. Maybe next year you can shoot for 200?