December 19, 2006 > 'Crippsmas' comes but once a year too
'Crippsmas' comes but once a year too
Fremont tradition adds local charities to the mix this year.
by Steve Warga
When Robert "Spider" Cantley began crafting Disney cartoon character cut-outs for Christmas decorations in 1967, it is doubtful he envisioned the grand tradition his Crippsmas fundraiser would grow into today. For nearly 40 years he invested untold hours and money into the annual event, first conceived as a tribute to his fallen child. He placed his first pieces on the lawn, festooned with holiday lights, and began collecting donations for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, the world's largest voluntary health organization devoted to funding blood cancer research, education and patient services.
Cripps Place neighbors gradually pitched-in with support of Cantley's idea. Along with decorating their own homes, they proudly placed pieces of his ever-growing army of hand-painted plywood characters on their lawns too. More importantly, they donated their time; manning a candy cane giveaway booth; collecting donations; directing traffic; and hosting informal tours for the thousands of people coming from near and far to view the extravaganza. Crippsmas became a Fremont institution.
Then, two years ago, Cantley and his wife retired to Twain Harte in the Gold Rush country and Crippsmas nearly retired too. Thanks in large part to the efforts of several new residents, the tradition survived. And this year, Coordinator Kate Amon has ably filled the shoes of her predecessor, taking things to a new level with a stronger local focus. Amon notes some major contributions from others. "I'm proud to work with wonderful neighbors like Loren and Janice Wiseman, Georgia Butterfield, Wendy and Mike Arnold, Jerri Bowen, plus Dave and Candy Richards to carry on the Crippsmas Place tradition."
Along with expanding the display's run to include three full weekends, Amon and her Crippsmas Club volunteers decided to add five charities, active in the Tri-Cities area, to the list of recipients.
Each of the five will contribute volunteers to help cover the new, expanded schedule. In return, Crippsmas funds will go, in part, to Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation; S.A.V.E. (Safe Alternatives to Violent Environments); HERS Breast Cancer Foundation; Kidango's "Gift from the Heart;" and Adopt an Angel. The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society will continue to benefit; this was the founding premise for the entire tradition.
Each year, new decorations find places in Cantley's original cartoon gang, providing fresh attractions for regular Crippsmas fans. Along with the expanded operations this season, Amon says there will be several local caroling groups strolling through the area as well.
One thing you won't find, though is Santa Claus! Meaning no disrespect to the jolly old soul, but Fremont police have a standing request to Crippsmas organizers, "No Santas, please." Turns out, a full-suited Santa is a guaranteed traffic-stopper, which means major headaches on Fremont Blvd. Santa hats are okay, folks drive right past those. But if the big guy himself is there, kids can't resist stopping for one last shot at pitching for their Christmas wish lists. So, Crippsmas Club sticks to Santa-likenesses only.
To get there from Interstate 880 south, exit on Decoto Road east, turn right on Fremont Blvd. to Nicolet Ave, then right. From I880 north, exit on Thornton Ave. east, turn left on Fremont Blvd., and then left on Nicolet Ave. You'll see displays almost immediately; you will want to tour each of several courts off Nicolet Ave.
It's quite a treat, one well worth the trip. Be sure to get a candy cane for everyone in the car, and drop a few bucks for charity while you're there. The Crippsmas Club thanks you and wishes one and all a very Merry Christmas!
Friday, Dec. 15 thru Saturday, Dec. 30
6 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Wellington Place and Nicolet Avenue