April 14, 2024
Debbie Degutis, the nonprofit's new managing director, says most of the 40 displays have been spruced up for this year's holiday event in downtown San Jose.

For Debbie Degutis, Christmas in the Park’s new managing director, the beloved San Jose holiday display is a real family tradition. Her parents, Martie and Walter “Dee” Degutis volunteered at Christmas in the Park for decades, and she grew up helping to decorate trees.

“Every day, I get to get up and go work at Christmas in the Park. How great is that?” Degutis said last weekend at History Park during Hot August Nights, the annual summer fundraiser held by the nonprofit group. And while most of us think about the holidays for a few weeks a year, getting Christmas in the Park right is on DeGutis’ mind every day of the year.

Christmas in the Park Board President Stacey Holden, left, and Managing Director Debbie DeGutis stand in front of a newly restored Nutcracker Suite display during Hot August Nights, a fundraiser for Christmas in the Park held at History Park in San Jose on Saturday, Aug. 19, 2023. (Sal Pizarro/Bay Area News Group) 

“We’re the biggest event of the year in San Jose, and we need to act like it,” she said, adding that she has put an emphasis on improving the quality of the displays. Of the 40 displays that will be installed in Plaza de Cesar Chavez starting in late October, all but 15 have been restored this year. The Nutcracker Suite display got a total makeover, as did a carousel display that was hand-painted by a mother and daughter who volunteered their time over four months.

Even Santa Claus has gotten new digs. Operations Manager Keith Peffer demolished the old Santa House and a new one was built where kids can visit the jolly old elf this season.

“I get very passionate about this because this is what Christmas in the Park is about,” Degutis said.

Christmas in the Park will open Nov. 24 in Plaza de Cesar Chavez, and the drive-through light show is also returning — and this year it’s coming back to History Park where it had its debut in 2020. Degutis said the park’s historic buildings provide the right backdrop for the light show, and the traffic issues that were a major problem that first year have been figured out. The downtown display is free, as always, but the drive-through is a paid event with tickets going on sale Sept. 1 at www.christmasinthepark.com.

Christmas in the Park board chair Stacey Holden said one of the biggest challenges the nonprofit still faces is making sure the public knows that it’s not a city-run event and needs the drive-through ticket sales, sponsorships and donations to keep going every year.

“We truly rely on the community to make it happen,” she said.

ART AND ABOUT: The 40th annual Palo Alto Festival of the Arts will be filling University Avenue with creativity this weekend. More than 250 artists will be exhibiting their works, the popular Italian Street Painting Expo is also returning with chalk artists from around the state creating their amazing art, and there will be live music as well — including some that you can create. Chopin & Chandeliers will have an interactive “Play Me” piano on Bryant Avenue, surrounded by colorful chandeliers made from recycled plastic bottles.

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And don’t forget that the Montalvo Arts Center will have its Lowrider Art Showcase starting at noon Sunday at the historic villa and grounds in Saratoga, hosted by Montalvo’s Latinx Council and presented by the United Lowrider Council of San Jose and nonprofit arts group Local Color. Go to montalvoarts.org for details.

POETIC POST: The two-year term of current Santa Clara County Poet Laureate Tshaka Campbell is coming to a close at the end of this year, which means that Santa Clara County Library District, Santa Clara County, SV Creates and Poetry Center San Jose are starting to look for his successor. Applications are open through 5 p.m. Sept. 22 for the honorary position, which includes a $6,000 annual stipend.  To get more details or to apply, go to bit.ly/SCCPoetLaureate.

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