The holidays are the most wonderful time of the year, especially in Toluca Lake, where the entire neighborhood takes on a decidedly festive air, transforming itself into a winter wonderland complete with twinkling lights, ornate trees and whimsical lawn decorations. It’s a time that’s kicked off with the community’s biggest event of the year: the Toluca Lake Holiday Open House, which will be held on December 6 in the Village.
Each year, the Toluca Lake Chamber of Commerce hosts the jovial neighborhood bash, bringing together local businesses, community groups and hundreds of residents and neighbors for a night filled with live music, merchant giveaways, pictures with Santa Claus and a tree-lighting ceremony with various dignitaries and local celebrities, including Honorary Mayor Fritz Coleman.
The time-honored tradition is one that took root in the early 1960s, according to Paulanna Cuccinello, chamber member and owner of Pergolina. She says the community gathering grew out of a private open house hosted by her parents, Anthony and Rose Chimo, at their flower shop Flowers by Anthony Rose on Riverside Drive. “My parents sent out invitations to their clients, which included the Hopes, Dick Linke, Andy Griffith, Ken Berry, Frankie Avalon, Neal Hefti, Jonathan Winters, the VonderAhes and the Waynes,” she says. “It was their way of saying thank you and happy holidays.”
The Chamber of Commerce took notice of the gathering and liked the idea of throwing a holiday celebration that allowed local businesses to show appreciation to the community that supports them. “And thus, the Holiday Open House was born,” Cuccinello says, adding that the grand affair encompassed the entire Village and featured marching bands, choirs and food.
“It has always been a way of saying thank you to our clients and a way for the chamber to give back to the local merchants,” Cuccinello says. “Goodwill is what it began as and what it has been, and as event chairperson for the last five years, I believe that the chamber really created an event that was like a shining star.”
This year, Cuccinello is passing on the “holiday torch” to fellow chamber member Sarah Cioni, owner of Belle Terre Floral, who will be chairing the event for the first time. But this isn’t her first rodeo. As a floral designer with 900 events under her belt, Cioni knows a thing or two about planning special and meaningful celebrations. She adds that she founded the holiday open house in her Colorado hometown, which is marking its 20th anniversary this year.
Cioni plans on keeping the 2019 Toluca Lake event true to tradition. That means the community can look forward to “a lovely December night filled with holiday dazzle, music, food and cheer,” she says.