Santa Claus visited Stockton early again this year, landing at Pixie Woods’ annual Christmas in July celebration on Saturday.
While Santa Claus was the main attraction, the event also included train, boat and carousel rides, arts and crafts, shaved ice, a magic show and a visit from pixies.
“We liked it a lot,” Lodi resident Sarah Lapp said.
Lapp said she visited the park as a child, but hadn’t been back as an adult until Saturday.
She was among the hundreds of San Joaquin County residents who attended the event, which has been held annually for more than 30 years.
Lapp and Joanna Brown, also of Lodi, decided to take their children to Christmas in July together. They said they were happy to enjoy time outdoors with their children, who range in age from 1 to 4.
Brown said it was her first time visiting Pixie Woods, which opened in 1954. She said she appreciated the layout of the park and the activities offered to children.
“We’ve been to other play places like the Fairytale Town (in Sacramento) and that seems a little more condensed. This one is more spread out and gives the kids space to run around to different stations,” Brown said.
Brown’s daughter, Hope, 4, said her favorite part of the event was getting to ride the carousel.
Janet Willis, a Stockton mother, was another first-time visitor of the 68-year-old children’s park. Willis said she wanted to take her 5-year-old son to Christmas in July because of his love for all things Christmas.
“It’s been great. We’ve enjoyed our time here today,” Willis said.
Mary Pennini, Pixie Woods board president, greeted families as they entered the park. She said it was her job to ensure children got their photograph taken with Santa Claus, and received a free toy after the photo op.
Pennini, who has been a Pixie Woods board member since 2009, said the children are the reason why she is involved with the board and helps organize events like Christmas in July.
“It is so heart-wrenching to see what little the children have in Stockton,” Pennini said. “We just want to make sure that this park stays alive because there’s not many things children and families can do that are cost-effective. And that’s what’s so great about Pixie Woods, it’s cost-effective.”
Elizabeth Horton, a Pixie Woods board member and principal of Sutherland Elementary School, also said she wanted to be involved with the board because of the children. Horton said it is her goal to organize more family-friendly events in San Joaquin County.
“I want to make sure my kids have places to go play. Places that are safe and affordable, that get them out of their environment and into nature, and into their community,” Horton said.
Pennini and Horton said Pixie Woods is a “hidden jewel” in Stockton.
“I call it my little Disneyland,” Pennini said. “It surprises me to hear how many people are born and raised in Stockton, and don’t even know that we’re here. I hope we can open people’s eyes and let them see how valuable this park is.”
Pixie Woods’ next big event will be the Monster Mash Halloween Bash from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Oct. 29. The event will be free for children ages 12 and under in costume, and general admission will be $5.
In order to put on community events, Pennini said the Pixie Woods board relies greatly on donations from the public.
“Anybody who is willing to donate what they have, we are welcome to it,” Pennini said.
For more information, call Pennini at (209) 403-2942 or visit visitpixiewoods.com.
Record reporter Hannah Workman covers news in Stockton and San Joaquin County. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @byhannahworkman. Support local news, subscribe to The Stockton Record at https://www.recordnet.com/subscribenow.