When Angie Niemeyer’s career as a Chicago advertising executive led her to a new opportunity out west, fear and excitement clashed as she and her then-boyfriend (now husband), Eric, first settled into their Toluca Lake apartment on Kling Street.
“Everything seemed much bigger than what I was used to — would I ever find community? Would I ever find home?” Niemeyer recalls.
Nearly two decades later, Niemeyer has not only planted roots here but become a community staple. “It didn’t take long for me to realize this is my place,” she says. “Watching my family grow here over the past 20 years has been a blessing. We’ve celebrated births, birthdays, anniversaries, milestones and career moves. Our Sundays are complete with long dog walks in the neighborhood with Banana, family bike rides and our weekly farmers market run.”
Niemeyer still remembers the first time she saw the Magical Christmas Caroling Truck from the balcony of her Kling Street apartment.
“We were astonished by this very loud and crazy-looking object rolling slowly down the street,” Niemeyer says. “Every year since, we found a way to spend Christmas Eve chasing this thing around town. We’d wait, we’d hear, we’d chase, we’d laugh, we’d dance. This is our tradition. It’s so fun!”
The Caroling Truck started in the 1980s, when a group of friends jumped in the back of an old pickup truck and drove around the neighborhood singing Christmas carols. The truck eventually evolved into a massive 18-wheeler decked out in Christmas lights and ornaments that takes carolers and dancers around the area to spread holiday cheer.
When the Niemeyers heard the news in fall 2018 that the original owners of the Caroling Truck were planning to stop this nearly 40-year tradition, the couple stepped up.
“Tradition is important, and we just couldn’t let it go,” Niemeyer says. “We eventually found the original owners, requested a meeting and explained what this tradition meant to our family and community. The rest is history.”
The only problem? “We had 24 days to create an organization and produce a parade,” Niemeyer says. “We also had no parade experience. Yet, with the help of some pretty amazing family members, friends and neighbors, on December 24, 2018, we produced our first version of this community holiday tradition, and the Magical Holiday Parade was formed.”
Organizing the parade only became more challenging during COVID-19, with the pandemic forcing the cancellation of the 2020 event and jeopardizing the festivities in 2021. “The week prior to Christmas Eve, as COVID numbers started to spike in a pretty dramatic way, we made the decision as a board to not only obtain proof of vaccination but also require proof of a negative test within 72 hours of Christmas Eve,” Niemeyer says. “We lost nearly 50 volunteers that week due to volunteers who couldn’t comply, those who were sick and those who were scared of getting sick. Those volunteers and crew members who were able to forge ahead waited hours at testing facilities for us. They all went above and beyond.”
Also serving on the Toluca Lake Homeowners Association (TLHOA) board of directors, Niemeyer has spent the past year and a half focusing on rebranding the association in an effort to boost membership and promote sustainable community involvement.
“We started by relaunching the website, which led to creating a members-only mobile app so that important info and member discounts could be accessed on the go,” Niemeyer says. “This was followed by redesigning the monthly newsletter and expanding the social media footprint. Our recent flamingo flocking fundraiser and the ninth annual Turkey Trot are two examples of showcasing organic content that makes a difference in our community.”
Niemeyer adds that she’s in her happy place when she’s able to give back to the neighborhood that has given her so much joy.
“I’ve always chased the idea of having a perfect family dinner,” she says. “Community involvement feels that way to me. It’s the idea that we can all work together for those perfect little moments in time that mean so much — those moments that hold weight. They’re not impossible; they just take effort.”
For more about the 2021 parade, read “Magical Holiday Parade Spreads Cheer for All to Hear.”