Saturday, June 3, 2023

Behind the Scenes of Ukiah’s Hometown Holidays Bringing Parades, Trolleys, Ice Rinks, and More

Parade of Lights announcers:  Andie Wattenburger, volunteer elf; Rudy Rudolph is Norm Kessen, Andrea Mercury announcer, Araceli Sandoval Spanish language announcer [Photo by Zach Sampsel]

If you missed the Parade of Lights and the tree lighting ceremony on December 3, there is still time to get in on other Hometown Holidays activities in Ukiah.

City of Ukiah Parks and Recreation Department Leads the Hometown Holidays

The Hometown Holidays program was created in partnership with Greater Ukiah Business and Tourism Alliance, Supervisor Mo Mulheren (representing Ukiah Networking Agency), Mendocino Transit Authority, Mendocino Forest Products, and Pear Tree Center. 

The group was formed in 2020, to figure out how to provide events for the public to celebrate during the pandemic. Senior Recreation Coordinator Marianne Davison told us, “The idea is that we’re a small town, a lot of us love the holidays, and we are collaborating and boosting what others are doing. I take the lead in organizing the parade, with Supervisor Mo Mulheren and the City of Ukiah staff. Mulheren works with volunteers to put on the parade.” The parade has grown every year. Last year there were about 50 parade entries and this year there were around 70.

Parade of Lights

[Photograph by Peter Armstrong]

Supervisor Mo Mulheren provided major help and support for the Parade of Lights on December 3. She thanked Ukiah Police Chief Cedric Crook and Lt. Rick Pintane for their help with safety planning. She also thanked helping Elves MaryJo Reynolds, Julie Dauer and Sammy Saunders.

The Ukiah High School Girls’ Wrestling Team and Girls’ Basketball Team helped with street closures, and Brandon Wheeler, Raul Ramos, and Bobby Ricetti from the City of Ukiah Parks and Rec Department also pitched lent a hand. Mulheren said, “This year was the first time I’ve had official support at the staging area and it made the job easier.” 

Remember the Trucker’s Light Parade? Five years ago, Tami Bartolomei proposed the idea that the separate Trucker’s Light Parade be combined with the Parade of Lights so that Ukiah would have one larger parade with everyone together. Mulheren said, “The parade entries really stepped up this year, and I’m hoping that next year we’ll have more than ever.”

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Holiday Trolley

“I’m excited to have the Holiday Trolley up and running this year. It was missed by the community for the last two years,” said Dawn White, Mobility Manager, Mendocino Transit Authority. When Dawn put out the volunteer sign-up sheet for Trolley drivers, the MTA drivers filled up the sheet within an hour. 

MTA’s Jason Baker drove the Trolley in the parade, with visiting family members riding along. White thanked the MTA Board of Directors, Executive Director Jacob King, and the volunteer drivers for their support. 

The Holiday Trolley runs Thursday through Sundays from November 25 through December 24 and ALL RIDES ARE FREE! Please see the program guide for schedules and routes. 

Ukiah on Ice

Ukiah on Ice [Photograph by Marianne Davidson]

The idea for the Ukiah on Ice rink began in 2016. The ice rink at Alex Thomas Plaza is open daily through January 15, 2023. It takes a bit of work to build the rink, as the ice sits on top of a deck over a sandbox.

JD General Engineering Construction put together the skating rink this year. Davison wants to thank the teen volunteers who handle the concessions at the rink. 

Let it Glow Light Displays

Last year’s winner of the Let It Glow Ukiah Valley Holiday Lighting Competition [Photograph from Marianne Davidson]

Katrina Kessen of Greater Ukiah Business and Tourism Alliance is one of the driving forces behind the Hometown Holidays team. This is the first year the various activities have been grouped together under the brand Hometown Holidays. 

Kessen said, “Working with the volunteers is very fulfilling. The heart and holiday spirit of the volunteers makes it special.” During the pandemic when so many things were shut down, the committee started the Let it Glow Ukiah Valley Holiday Lighting Competition so that people could celebrate while keeping a social distance. 

If you would like to take the family out for a drive to see the Christmas lights and vote for your favorite, here is a link to the Map to Let it Glow Light Displays. The winner receives a check for $350. 

Gingerbread House and Santa’s Room in Alex Thomas Plaza – Winterfest December 17

Krista Savonen and the team from Mendocino Forest Products working on the Gingerbread House [Photograph by Marianne Davison]

Krista Savonen of Mendocino Forest Products is also on the Hometown Holidays team. MFP contributed the holiday decorations along Perkins Street and in Alex Thomas Plaza. The volunteer team from Mendocino Forest Products created a larger-than-life gingerbread house and Santa’s room. 

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John Andersen of MFP said, “In 2020 we were trying to spruce up downtown. Last year we added some more decorations, such as candy canes along Perkins Street, and this year the Gingerbread House.”

Come see this and get free pictures with Santa at the City of Ukiah’s Winterfest on December 17. All the wooden decorations were constructed and milled by volunteers at Mendocino Forest Products. Andersen added, “We are already being asked about next year.”

Sponsors of Ukiah Hometown Holiday Programs

These sponsors generously provided donations for the various activities: Acevedo’s Ukiah Truck Repair, Adventist Health, Alex Thomas Plaza, Arrow Fencing, B.A.S. Roofing, Big Earls BBQ, Bonterra Organic Estates, Chadwick Armory, City of Ukiah, City of Ukiah Electric Utility, Community First Credit Union, Concrete Pete, DeFatte Equipment Rental, DFM Auto, El Azteca, Fairfield Inn, Ferranti Construction, Friedman’s Home Improvement, George Petersen & Associates, Granite Construction, Greater Ukiah Business and Tourism Alliance, Gregg Simpson Trucking, Hole in the Wall, JD General Engineering Construction, Kasie Gray, KWINE and MAX FM, Love Local Mendo, MCHC Health Centers, Mendocino Bounty, Mendocino Forest Products, MTA, PACE Supply, Pardini Appliance and Mattress, Pear Tree Center CIRE, Savings Bank of Mendocino County, Slam Dunk Pizza, The Works, Thurston Auto Corporations, Ukiah Valley Networking Agency, Vocality Credit Union, W Real Estate, WIPF Construction.

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Monica Huettl
Monica Huettl
Mendocino County Resident, Annoying Horse Girl.

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