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Idols, Toyon and a Big Old Birthday: Reasons to Celebrate this December
December, 2008 - Issue #50
It has been a hard end of the year for everyone. Tragically, those of us who matter most in this valley - movers and shakers like myself - are especially struggling. If times weren't so tough, my mailbox would be full of invites to formal dinners and holiday parties with people who own car dealerships and real estate firms. But no one's putting on such events this year and in this economy.

The only thing that remains for us upper-crusters to do is attend charity dinners. Even these are not what they used to be. I won't name names, but a prominent local family is holding a charity benefit on behalf of themselves. Apparently, they were heavily invested in AIG and oil futures and now they are asking us to donate $250 a plate for a dinner in the back room of HomeTown Buffet. How the philanthropic have fallen!

Yes, things could be going better. But in this darkest of months, it's about looking for the bright side of things, right? Apart from the usual winter holidays, we actually have much to look forward to this December. So cheer up; I've found cause to celebrate.

COC and the Arts
In the face of budgeting and cutbacks, the College of the Canyons has bravely stepped forward to keep the arts alive in Santa Clarita. We're not talking avant-garde-is-that-really-art?-art like they churn out at CalArts. This is the more accessible sort - reality TV accessible. Indeed, Santa Claritans can look forward to having two former American Idol contestants sing at the Performing Arts Center this December. The Center will host Phil Stacey and Josh Gracin, both of whom served in the military and love singing country music. They may not have won Grammys like Kelly Clarkson or Carrie Underwood, but performing at COC may be their second lucky break.

Perhaps you prefer the literary arts and crave a novel of personal turmoil set against a rich tableau of Islam, Afghanistan and kites? If so, you are in luck. The COC "Book of the Year" is Khaled Hosseini's The Kite Runner. Book-related events dot the calendar throughout the winter, and December's event is a panel discussion about life in Central Asia. Some communities might do a book of the month or a book for each season, but us Claritans prefer to read and enjoy the arts in moderation. One book and two Idols, then, are ample reason to celebrate our very own community college and Claritan culture.

A New Nature Center
Placerita Canyon is another bright spot in an otherwise bleak Santa Clarita. The Toyon trees are all decked out for Christmas, their verdant boughs festooned with crimson berries. Hollywood was named after the holly-like Toyon, sprigs of which were hugely popular Christmas decorations in the early 1900s. In the sycamore trees towering above the Toyons, bright green mistletoe abounds. (If you plan to go hiking under these trees, it would be prudent to have a breath mint and pick hiking partners with care.)

But the biggest reason to celebrate Placerita this December is the renovated nature center just a few months away from completion. Anyone who grew up in Santa Clarita can recall field trips to the Placerita Nature Center to see animal presentations with opossums and owls and tarantulas. The rugged building was the place where you could learn about rattlesnakes, browse displays of igneous rocks or ask for a band-aid. But the Nature Center of yore has been given a much-needed renovation to time-warp it into the current century. A new roof, fresh paint, overhauled restrooms and better parking are among the improvements we should be able to enjoy by spring. But for now, a trailside show of red berries and green mistletoe will do.

Toasting the 21st
On Monday, December 15, Santa Clarita will at last be able to mosey up to the bar for a much deserved drink. That's right. Our City's turning 21 this year. My petition to have the anniversary of our cityhood turned into a national holiday has not yet received a response. At least in our own valley, though, Cityhood Day marks the first and most beloved of the winter holidays.

Sure, there are plenty of reasons for a drink on the ides of December. Families have been foreclosed out of the valley. Traffic problems keep growing. SCV elite are now organizing charity galas on behalf of themselves. But on December 15, remember to take time to celebrate. Whether you're at a dive bar or someplace swankier, clear your throat, raise your glass and say "Here's to the City of Santa Clarita on her 21st Birthday. May the next 21 years be better than the last; may she hold her liquor as well as her residents; and may we always remember how much we heart this place called home, this place called Santa Clarita." Here's to you, SCV.

This column is intended as satire and a (sometimes successful) attempt at humor. Suggestions, catty comments and veiled threats intended for the author can be e-mailed to iheartscv@insidescv.com.

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