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At the Stow House, Santa listens to the Christmas list of someone who's young at heart.

Margaret Connell

At the Stow House, Santa listens to the Christmas list of someone who's young at heart.


Holiday Spirit in Goleta

How the Good Land Is Celebrating This Holiday Season


This has been a busy week of festivities in Goleta. There have been activities and fun for all ages, from small children to senior citizens. Here’s a rundown of some of the Good Land’s holiday highlights.

Holidays at the Ranch

Two weekends ago saw the Goleta Valley Historical Society‘s “Holidays at the Ranch.” The Stow House, dating from 1873, was in full festive array, with decorations inside and out.

Within the house, a toy train was circling the base of the living room’s Christmas tree. The aroma of baking cookies came from the kitchen, where volunteers were rolling out dough for children to stamp out and decorate their own creations. Later, they got to eat them as they came fresh out of the oven.

Santa was there with his rein-goats and young and old came to sit on his lap to tell him what they wanted for Christmas. He confessed to one of his older petitioners that he was unable to grant her wish. It was for peace on earth and an end to war. I guess there are limits to what Santa can carry in his sleigh.

The Stow House is cared for by the Goleta Valley Historical Society, now in its 20th year. It is currently engaged in a campaign to restore some of the historic ranch buildings, develop an education center, and create museum displays of early ranching days in the valley. The gardens have many magnificent specimen trees and there are plans to improve and restore the early twentieth century landscaping of the site.


Candy Cane Train Rides at the Depot

From the Stow House, it was just a short hop to the South Coast Railroad Museum on Los Carneros Road. Since Thanksgiving and through December 23, the Candy Cane train has been carrying kids, parents, and grandparents around the track, a source of great delight for all and especially the very young.

Choo-choo!!! All aboard the candy train!!
Click to enlarge photo

Margaret Connell

Choo-choo!!! All aboard the candy train!!

The museum is the home of the old Goleta Train Depot, which was saved by a group of committed railroad enthusiasts and community members. They moved the depot from Old Town Goleta to the Los Carneros site in 1983. It has been lovingly restored to its original condition with the Southern Pacific traditional colors of colonial yellow with brown trim. It would not seem surprising to hear a train whistle, so authentic is the restoration. The depot building is on the National Register of Historic Places.

We hear the train a-comin', it's rollin' down the track. That candy train, that is!
Click to enlarge photo

Margaret Connell

We hear the train a-comin’, it’s rollin’ down the track. That candy train, that is!

The miniature train runs on tracks around the site, with volunteer engineers at the controls. The Candy Cane trains run every holiday season. Next up is the Easter Bunny Express.

And for those who preferred to commune with nature rather than with Santa, it was just a short walk to Lake Los Carneros and its wealth of bird life.


Senior Festivities at the Community Center

On Wednesday, Goleta’s senior citizens had their party at the Goleta Valley Community Center. Entry was guaranteed with a donation of canned food for the Food Bank.

Mrs. Claus, aka Connie Steketee, spreads cheer at the GVCC party.
Click to enlarge photo

Margaret Connell

Mrs. Claus, aka Connie Steketee, spreads cheer at the GVCC party.

There were about 65 guests, among them Mrs. Claus, aka Connie Steketee. Connie has visited Washington School as Mrs. Claus for 50 years. Quite a record!

While the band Basin Buddies played, several couples and singles took to the floor and danced. A group of small visitors from the Head Start program came in during this time to enjoy the music and clap their hands. Dancing of all kinds - swing, line, round, and Hawaiian - is part of the regular program for seniors at the center and is obviously very popular. Before lunch a group from the round dancing class put on a show for the crowd.

The morning ended with lunch and a gift exchange. The community center has programs for seniors from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., Monday through Friday. Besides dancing, there is bingo, Tai Chi, crafts, and a bridge club, among other activities. It just costs $10 a year to participate in this array of activities, which provide a chance to socialize and eat a nourishing meal each day.

The Stow House, the Railroad Museum, and the Goleta Valley Community Center all exist today because people in the community worked to save them and support them over the years. At this holiday season, we can celebrate their presence in the Goleta community.

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