Drake Park was transformed into a winter wonderland Saturday afternoon as more than 100 attendees enjoyed Christmas serenades, sledding in snow and hot cocoa during the 10th anniversary event of Winter in Willmore near Downtown Long Beach.
Since 2010, members of the Willmore City Heritage Association have teamed up with local residents, volunteers and sponsors to put on events such as this one, according to Willmore City history. Being one of Long Beach’s most historic neighborhoods, Willmore City is where the “past, present and future” come together through rich tradition, with the neighborhood putting on several community events throughout the year.
Last year, winter events across Long Beach were canceled, including Winter in Willmore, as health officials urged the public to stay home and social-distance due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This year, however, children’s laughter could be heard once more as parents and kids alike enjoyed the holiday atmosphere.
Dania Rangel, who has been living in the area for about six months, experienced the event for the first time with her family. She said winter events create a different atmosphere because “at one point everyone is in the same mood, the world stops for Christmas.”
Growing up with a single mom, disposable income was hard to come by, so events such as Winter in Willmore represented Christmas for Rangel, who as a kid, looked forward most to the toy giveaways.
“It’s good to bring the kids out,” she said after taking family pictures at the Winter in Willmore penguin cutout board. “Being here humbles you.”
Musical performances by members of Sidewalk Serenadez, including “Frosty the Snowman,” set the atmosphere for a nostalgic Hallmark movie. Also in attendance were workers from the Long Beach Public Library and Long Beach Transit who gave away books and tote bags.
Children tugged their parents around from tent to tent to make sure they took advantage of everything the event had to offer.
“It feels really good to be back because the kids are really fun and they really enjoy it,” said Judy Way, a long-time resident of the Wrigley neighborhood.
Way attended the event with her friends Dianne McNinch and Nancy Risch where all three volunteered to paint children’s faces. Because of COVID-19, the three friends limited painting to foreheads and arms. Children who participated left their chair sporting Christmas trees, candy canes or snowmen.
At one point, more than 30 people stood in line for sledding, one of the more popular choices for attendees each year. Carlos Molina, who has been living in Long Beach for more than 20 years, said this Winter in Willmore was similar to ones that WCHA has put in the past, with the exception of the new rock climbing wall that towered at over 20 feet.
From the side, Molina guided his smiling 5-year-old son Stefano as he made his way up the rock climbing wall. After falling gracefully from the wall, Molina and his son joined the rest of the family to experience the remaining activities that Winter in Willmore had to offer.
Today I’ll be covering the Winter in Willmore event at Drake Park near Downtown Long Beach where organizers and volunteers are currently setting up. The event will be from 1 to 4 p.m. for anyone that would like to see real snow in #LongBeach. pic.twitter.com/oXnwuTxy5B— Fernando Haro (@FernandoAHaro) December 18, 2021