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Let's Go Outside | Commentary by Evelyne Vandersande
| Thursday, Nov 28, 2013

evelynevandersande_mugWe might be carefree the rest of the year, but when the holidays arrive, traditions are important.

It all starts with Halloween, and if you live in Santa Clarita, your car will automatically find itself at Lombardi Ranch for the fabulous pumpkins. Thanksgiving? The feast would not be complete without turkey and at least one pie. Christmas? Well, yes, there are the presents to find and the house to be decorated, but in Santa Clarita, it starts with the first weekend of December at the Placerita Canyon Nature Center’s Craft Fair.

The event takes place Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 7-8, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The charge for most crafts is $2, and wreaths range from $12 and up. Cash and checks only. This is the only fund raiser for the Nature Center, and the profits are used to feed the animals.

People will wait at the door to be the first ones to enter, year after year, because they know the beautiful natural treasures that await them. What on earth is going on?

eve112813aI’ll explain. The Nature Center is the only place in the valley where you can make your own holiday decorations using elements that nature provided.

For days before, the docents have been gathering bounty from their gardens, in the other nature centers, in the mountains, in Christmas tree lots, any place they can get evergreen branches, interesting seeds and pods, dried berries, acorns and pine cones of many sizes, and even mistletoe. Heidi Webber has been dehydrating oranges, lemons and apples to bring a classy touch to many of the decorations. Docents have been cutting branches or gathering them where they can and drilling three holes for candles so you can make the most spectacular centerpieces.

This is where the interest of those two special days resides: People buy a straw wreath and branches and attach all of the greenery on this clean slate. With a glue gun, they decide where the smaller berries, pine cones, etc., will go – and with no real effort or special talent, the result is always spectacular. The room smells delightful with all the greenery, people help each other or concentrate deeply, but compliments are given easily and the atmosphere is happy and fun.

eve112813dComing to the Craft Fair is a great way to get into the holiday spirit. The nice part is that the generations mingle happily: While the parents are working at their decorations, children are having the time of their lives, doing simple crafts involving a lot of glue and sparkles. Getting your hands sticky and shiny is always satisfying.

Others are making bird feeders. You have to roll a large pine cone in a mixture of peanut butter and bird seed. The gooey smell is also extremely gratifying, and the birds love it. I remember one year I was the one in charge of the peanut butter mixture; I had to add a lot of corn flour because it was so sticky and I did not have a container large enough, so I had to do the mixing in my bathtub. It’s a fun memory, and the peanut butter smell that lingered for a week in my bathroom was sort of pleasant, too.

Have you ever dipped candles? Did you know you can make candles with stripes? I think I still have some candles my kids made when they were little. They were so pretty, I dared not use them.

eve112813bDo you know the really fun part about the holiday fair? It has been held for about 30 years, and people who attended as children now come with children of their own and share their memories. That is really so special.

Of course, Santa is always there with his big bag full of candy canes, and little children are always intimidated but intrigued, too. Santa spends time and talks with them.

For many years, Bob Moss was our Santa. This is a job that is close to his heart and is really important to him. He will be traveling this year, so Fred Seeley will take his place. Believe it or not, he will be another experienced Santa, as he used to play Santa every year for his company prior to his retirement. Thank you, Fred, and good luck on those two days.

We’ll have a white elephant sale, and even if no white elephant will be in sight (one year, a lady asked us if we really had one for sale) the prices are unbeatable, and there are some pretty neat things to be found.

eve112813cOnce again, this is the only fundraising of the year to feed the animals; we also will have a raffle you’ll want to check out.

Speaking of the animals, this is the only place where you can arrange a bow on your wreath while a docent passes by with a snake or owl that you can see up close. You can also ask information about the animals, and you will learn all kinds of interesting tidbits.

Food will be available, so you don’t have t leave the center early. You can take a hike any time of the day to get some exercise.

The docents always spend some frenzied weeks to make sure those two days go smoothly for our visitors. But when Dec. 7 and 8 finally arrive, we will all enjoy the great holiday spirit, the visitors having fun, and the wonderful smell that spells Christmas.

I hope you have a chance to participate in this delightful tradition. All of the docents at Placerita join me in wishing you a very happy holiday as you enjoy this beautiful valley around us.


Evelyne Vandersande has been a docent at the Placerita Canyon Nature Center for 27 years. She lives in Newhall.



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1 Comment

  1. Steve I says:

    What a wonderful article Evelyn, I can almost smell the cinnamon and pinecones!

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