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December 6, 2011 > Crippsmas time is here

Crippsmas time is here

By Julie Grabowski

Nothing brings out holiday cheer like seeing a house strung with shining lights and an array of cheerful characters frolicking on the front lawn. For over 40 years a neighborhood of Fremont residents have been unifying their holiday spirit into one giant community celebration of Christmas and giving back.

Crippsmas Place began in the late 1960s by Robert "Spider" Cantley as a tribute to his mother who he lost to Leukemia. The event served as a fundraiser for the Leukemia-Lymphoma Society and has since become a holiday staple, as every year thousands of visitors come to see the array of lights and artistic cutouts of colorful cartoon characters throughout the neighborhood.

Kate Amon took over as coordinator when Cantley retired and moved out of the area in 2004. "I had enjoyed the tradition very much; it always cheered me up driving home in the winter," says Amon. And finding out it was a fundraiser, and not just about decorations was appealing as well. After all, isn't a large part of Christmas about bringing joy and help to others?

In 2006, the newly formed Crippsmas Club, a non-profit volunteer group of about 12 local neighbors who plan and run the event each year, got together to discuss adding charities.

Proceeds are now dispersed between the Leukemia-Lymphoma Society; Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation; as well as local charities SAVE (Safe Alternatives to Violent Environments); HERS Breast Cancer Foundation; Kidango "Gifts from the Heart" program, which provides needy children with basics and school supplies; and Adopt an Angel, serving children in Alameda County's Child Protective Services.

Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation was chosen due to two Crippsmas Place families being personally affected by the disease, and one of the neighbors involved runs Adopt an Angel. Kidango approached the club asking to be involved, and while other groups have since expressed interest in being included, for the time being it has been agreed that these six charities will remain the focus. All money raised goes to the charities, with a small amount used for building new decorations, restoring old favorites and arranging displays for Crippsmas Place.

Preparations began the Saturday after Thanksgiving, with 20 to 30 volunteers spending their weekend hours working to turn ordinary suburbia into a holiday wonderland filled with Christmas cheer. This year there are over 40 new and restored cut-outs; holiday revelers will see Phineas and Ferb, more Disney princesses, Rugrats, new Peanuts designs, The Simpsons, and Sesame Street characters. The collection of classic favorites and new additions numbers over 150 pieces on display, among which you are almost certain to find those special characters that add a dash of joy and humor to your life.

The creation and care of the decorations are handled by what Amon calls "the creative works department," artistic volunteers who know just how to bring a piece of plywood to life. Mother and daughter Wendy and Melissa Arnold are the top decorators, with Francis and Lavern Metzger doing a lot to help as well. Everyone has worked very hard to keep the decorations looking fresh and new, so nothing appears shabby.

About 70 to 80 houses participate in the festive event, with only a few of what Amon calls "humbug houses" declining. "It's a better show when we have more continuity and houses decorated," she says.

To view this wonderful holiday treat, turn west onto Nicolet Avenue from Fremont Boulevard and look for the cul-de-sacs of Asquith Place, Cripps Place, Wellington Place, and Nicolet Court. Free candy canes will be handed out on Wellington Place (volunteers pass out 14-16,000 of the striped treats each year!) and charitable donations will be accepted there as well.

A bicycle group from Newark has already scheduled to bike over on the opening night to check out the scene. So get your group together and plan to experience a little holiday cheer while helping others. For those who have never been to Crippsmas Place or if your last visit was years ago, Amon says you can expect to see "a fresh, new mix and variety of decorations." Don't miss the chance to put a little Crippsmas spirit into your holiday!

Crippsmas Place
December 10 - 25
Monday - Thursday: 6 p.m. - 10 p.m.
Friday and Saturday: 5 p.m. - 11 p.m.
Sunday: 5 p.m. - 10 p.m.
Donations on Wellington Place, Fremont

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