By Lorianna Kastrop, Vice President, The Kastrop Group, Inc. Architects
As a rule, I like to blog about topics related to architecture. Today, I’m going to share some thoughts about public events. My husband and business partner Mike Kastrop and I work on an event called “Hometown Holidays”, that is held on the first Saturday of December annually in downtown Redwood City.
Redwood City has built a reputation as an entertainment center, with a full schedule of public festivals, multi-cultural events, Farmers’ Markets, Arts & Crafts fairs, theatrical performances, and music concerts at various restaurants, outdoor venues and performance halls. These events occur year-around. The Hometown Holidays festival grew out of an annual children’s parade that had been held for many years, but had started to fade as an attraction. Wanting to support the children, in 2004 a group of downtown merchants brainstormed ways to update the event. Mike was the one who said “Let’s bring in snow!” (It is important to note that as a rule it does not snow in Redwood City, unless there is a tiny dusting during a cold winter storm, once in a very long while.) So, unless their parents can afford to go to Lake Tahoe or winter ski areas, Redwood City kids never play in the snow.
Once we hit on the idea of snow, the rest of the festival took shape. The organizing committee does fundraising and organization. We partner with Redwood City departments of Public Works, Fire, Police and Parks, Recreation and Community Services for logistical support. We truck in tons of ice that gets “chipped” into snow for kids to play in for the day on one of the downtown streets. We set up a lovely decorated area in the San Mateo County History Museum for free photos with Santa. We have children’s carnival rides and pony rides. We have internationally-known ice sculptors carve a huge ice display. Children’s choirs, high school bands and local dance schools perform onstage in the town square. Vendors sell treats and toys from booths on the streets. As the day ends, we continue to hold the children’s parade, now with over 1,200 participants of marching groups, floats, and performers. After the parade, when it is fully dark, the festivalgoers move to City Hall where we all count down to the lighting of the huge redwood tree that has been decorated with thousands of tiny, twinkling lights by our Fire Department. And right after that, the sky overhead explodes with a tremendous low-aerial fireworks display.
My role on the organizing committee is to recruit and schedule the entertainers, including the ice sculptors, M.C. the stage performances, and serve as one of the parade announcers. I’m busy and having fun from the crack of dawn until night. The Hometown Holidays festival is one of my favorite days of the year because of what it means to the children. On the organizing committee, we are devoted to the concept that this day is for the kids. When we see thousands of people show up with their children and grandchildren, who are so happy to have something that is free to attend and so much fun, it is worth all of the work preparing for the event.
What does this have to do with architecture? Only that the built environment we create encompasses the people of our communities. Those people need places to live, work, shop, dine, and worship. As architects, creating those spaces is our mission. But people also need a spiritual lift, a reason to gather together and celebrate from time to time. Consider devoting part of your busy schedule to assist in organizing a public event or working on a service project with a non-profit organization. I promise that you will get a lot of satisfaction from it. Check out the website www.hometownholidays.org for ideas and inspiration. Happy Holidays!