Published in the December 26 – January 8, 2018 issue of Gilroy Life

Image result for Santa Claus in Gilroy Gardens

Santa Claus with a young fan at Gilroy Gardens. Photo courtesy Gilroy Gardens Family Theme Park

Gilroy boys and girls will soon be taking down their well-worn 2018 calendars and putting up their brand-new 2019 calendars. With my most recent Christmas Eve globe-trotting sleigh-ride now behind me, I can enjoy a week of rest for myself and my reindeer here at the North Pole before starting on next Christmas’s toy-making.

Mrs. Claus and I and our team of elves wish to take a moment to recall some Garlic City memories from the passing year as we prepare on Monday to toast New Year’s Eve with milk and cookies.

I was impressed by the number of foodies who visited Christmas Hill Park from near and far for the 40th annual Gilroy Garlic Festival in late July. This year saw the introduction of the first-ever signature cocktail, the Garlic Festival Mule, which proved so popular that it sold out during the three-day event. I must say it was a mighty tasty beverage. A total of 80,646 guests attended July 27, 28, and 29. This jolly old elf really enjoyed the pepper-steak sandwiches and scampi cooked up by the team of volunteers at Gourmet Alley. I was also impressed at the generous spirit of Gilroy in giving $255,000 in distributions to nonprofit organizations.

This year, Gilroy celebrated its heritage of rootin’-tootin’ cowboys and cowgirls with two new family-fun events. The first Gilroy Rodeo in more than 60 years was a buckaroo success, according to organizer Erik Martin. I enjoyed a hot August afternoon with 3,500 people at the newly-built rodeo grounds located at the 62-acre Furtado Dairy in east Gilroy. I’m glad to hear organizers are planning to bring the Gilroy Rodeo back this summer. Maybe we can include Rudolph, Dancer, Prancer, Donner and Vixen and their friends as part of the fun.

Thanks to my friends in the Leadership Gilroy class of 2018, Bonanza Day came back to celebrate Gilroy’s Wild West heritage. The team of leaders chose to resurrect the long-gone Bonanza Day as their class project. I enjoyed that fun event in the 1970s and it brought a tear of joy to my eyes Sept. 29 to see the parade of floats built by local schools and other organizations. The parade started at noon Saturday at Christmas Hill Park and followed Miller Avenue to Miller Park. It was wonderful to see all the youngsters enjoying some old-fashioned family-fun games and other festivities. I’m glad to hear it proved so successful in bringing the town together that there’s talk about making it an annual event. Maybe some school might be kind enough to invite Mrs. Claus and me to join them on a float — I have a stylish cowboy hat.

With the year’s celebrations also come some sadness. I was sorry to hear longtime Gilroyan Eleanor Villarreal lost her battle with leukemia. She lived a life devoted to making South Valley region a better place for all. For family and friends, Villarreal will be remembered for her devoted service to children. A celebration of her life was held at Rebekah’s Children’s Services, a site where she spent more than 20 years passionately helping local youth.

Another Gilroyan was honored this summer with the opening of Cydney Casper Park, named for an employee in the Gilroy planning office who died in a motorcycle accident in 2006. Casper’s life was one of dedication to the city and citizens of Gilroy. It will continue to impact others for generations to come through the play equipment and serenity of the new neighborhood park. The 3.3-acre park is situated across from Las Animas Elementary School.

In the November elections, I’m glad to see voters gave a gift to educating future generations of Gilroyans by approving Measure X, the $248-million facility bond for Gavilan Community College. Much of the money will go to building a new campus in San Benito County south of Hollister. But I look forward in five or so years to joining the community at the grand opening of a beautiful new performing arts center planned for the Gilroy campus. Gavilan will turn 100 years old in 2019, and my friend Superintendent Dr. Kathleen Rose and others are planning a gala and various other events to celebrate its centennial.

Finally, I wish to share with readers an editorial originally published in the New York Sun newspaper in 1897 that I believe is a charming way to close this year’s holiday season. (Read it on page 2.) “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus” was the Sun’s response to a letter to the editor written by eight-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon pondering my existence. Gilroy Life editor Robert Airoldi was gracious enough to print this classic piece of Christmas folklore. I hope it helps all Gilroy boys and girls young and old to close the year with an innocent child’s spirit of hope for the future.

Happy New Year from your friends at the North Pole. Ho, ho, ho!

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