By Alicia Doyle

The Writer
Specializing in Good News
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Photo by Joe Lumaya/Ventura County Star

Holiday in park event aims to spark interest in local history

December 7, 2014/Ventura County Star

Christmas carols filled the air on Sunday at Strathearn Historical Park in Simi Valley, where local authors signed books, historic houses were decorated for the holidays and Santa took requests from more than 100 children.

“As always, we hope that people will learn more about the park and spark their interest in our history because … so many people have lived here and never been to the park,” said Judy Pepiot, of Simi Valley, a park board member and one of numerous volunteers on site.

Sunday’s free event featured live entertainment by harpist Elaine Lister and flutists Mary Predmore and Rhondda Dayton.

In the visitor’s center, local authors giving book signings included P.W. Conway, author of “Buckaroo Poetry,” and Wendy Varble, author of “The Summer of 1934” and “The Pisgah Grande — 1936.”

“I always support the Strathearn folks. I’ve been a docent here for so many years so we support each other,” said Conway, of Simi Valley. “As far as my book is concerned, I’m just hoping it will introduce some people that may not be aware of cowboy poetry to cowboy poetry. It will give them an opportunity to see a little bit of what it’s like.”

Refreshments for visitors included pastries called rugelach, sugar cookies, apricot bars, tea breads and Norwegian cookies called rosettes.

“Last year, this was very well-received,” said Terri Malkinson, event chairwoman, of Simi Valley. “They can visit all of the different houses. It’s a self-guided tour where we have the docents in each of the houses. We want people to have a good time.”

Numerous children took free pictures with Santa, who took requests for Barbie dolls, My Little Pony, Elsa from the movie “Frozen,” Nerf bow-and-arrow sets and remote-control helicopters.

Santa Claus said he enjoys getting to see kids and the shock on their face when they see him. Parents get as freaked out as some of the children do, he said.

“And you just bring a lot of joy and happiness to people,” he said. “You take a look at what’s going on the world today and there’s not a lot of that.”

Sierra Sires, 7, chatted with Santa about learning math and science in school and playing kickball with her grandpa.

“I don’t dance because I’m shy but I sing,” the girl told Santa.

Her mother, Kristi Sires, hoped the experience inspired the meaning of the season.

“We go to church so we’re trying to teach her it’s about Christ’s birth,” said Sires, of Simi Valley. “She understands it’s not just about presents but about family.”

Gina Ali purchased many vintage Christmas decorations from the museum’s gift shop, including two Christmas trees with homemade Christmas ornaments, a Christmas sled with Santa and a light-up sign of the word joy.

“I like the vintage look, and it’s hard to find,” said Ali, of Simi Valley.

Sunday marked her first time at the Christmas event at the historical museum.

“It reminds me of my childhood … small town where everyone gets together,” Ali said. “It’s an old-school Christmas.”

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