The holiday season comes but once a year for most. But for Carolyn Snyder,
on January 1, it's only just beginning. By March, she is already knee
deep in wreaths, thousands of yards of garland and ornaments of all shapes,
colors and sizes for crafts that will go on sale at the Holiday Festival Boutique.
"We attend the first ordering shows in January and March to find
out what the holiday decorating trends are for the year," she said.
"If we don't make our big orders by spring, it's too late."
For the average 74-year-old grandmother who is not employed as one of
Santa's elves, her dedication to the holiday season might seem extreme.
But for Snyder, who first began working on Torrance Memorial's Holiday
Festival 27 years ago, it's a way of life. Snyder is in charge of
the tree decorations. She and Festival co-chair Bev George jointly work
on the boutique. "Once I got involved I was hooked," Snyder
said. "I've traveled all over the country by motor home, but
when I'm away, I can't wait to get back and work on the festival."
"The volunteers are phenomenal. I've met the kind of friends
I will keep forever," she continued.
Snyder has co-chaired the Holiday Festival on and off since its second
year. During its first years, it was called "Festival of the Trees."
The very first festival took place in the hospital's basement. The
following year it moved into a tent on the hospital campus. "We had
such heavy rain and wind that year that the fire department had to use
fire trucks to hold the tent down," she said.
"One year the generator we were using fried all of the tree lights,"
she continued. "We worked overnight and until 4:30 the following
afternoon to get back up and running again." Many of the volunteers
who worked on the first festivals are still volunteering but the group's
numbers have grown to upwards of 250 who work on festival preparations
throughout the year, and 300 during festival week. Included are four generations
of Snyder's own family. Through the years, she's recruited her
parents, in-laws and all of her grandchildren (except for two who live
out of state), some starting as young as 2-years-old. "By 7- or 8-years
old they are decorating trees all by themselves," she said. Adding
to the festival frenzy, Snyder and the volunteers have helped to usher
in future generations of festival volunteers whom Snyder affectionately
calls "festival babies."
"Most of the festival co-chairs have had a grandchild born at Torrance
Memorial during festival week. It happens every year," she said with
a laugh. Snyder's brother Ray O'Dell has also served as facilities
chair for the last five years. O'Dell is credited with building Santa's
Sleigh, used for photo opportunities with Santa.
Snyder pinches herself when she thinks about how the festival has grown
from a small community fundraiser to one of the city's largest annual
events. She credits the continued support of the volunteers and members
of the community who donate their time and resources to design and decorate
the 32 uniquely themed festival trees displayed for sale and auction.
"There are so many wonderfully designed trees and loyal supporters
who continue to help year after year," she said. "The volunteers
are not paid accept for the rewards they reap in helping and making a
difference. We simply couldn't do it without them."