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Heritage Park offers winter cheer

Mark Molina prepares a noble fir Christmas tree at Heritage Park in La Verne on Saturday. His family sets up and sells the trees during the weeks leading up to Christmas. The park is also host to other activities such as concerts, tractor rides and tours of the citrus farm and historical buildings. This year the Assist Volleyball Club will donate four to five Christmas trees to families in need. / photo by Scott Mirimanian

Megan Sebestyen
Staff Writer

In Southern California where the sun shines almost all year, there is still a place where it feels like Christmas. Snow, sleigh rides and Christmas trees are all part of the experience at La Verne’s Heritage Park.

“We have many, many repeat customers who like to come out and enjoy it with their families,” Robin Molina, president of the Heritage Foundation, said.

The park’s Christmas tree lot opened in late November. Beginning Saturday, the park will have real snow, sleigh rides, a hay maze and Christmas carols performed by a local band.

“The kids love wandering through the trees and snow,” Edith Braida, Heritage Park volunteer, said. “You see a lot of giggling.”

The park draws as many as 1,000 people each year. Not everyone comes to buy a tree, though.

“Some people come just to take pictures,” Molina said.

The park sells three types of trees: douglas fir, grand and noble pine, all of which are imported from Oregon.

The Molina family, the La Verne Historical Society, the city of La Verne and the volunteers have cooperated for many years to offer families this Christmas experience.

“We’ve been here for at least 12 years at this lot; eight years at the other,” volunteer Frank Molina said.

Frank, Robin’s father-in-law, works to run the park during the week.

“It’s our family thing too,” Robin Molina said. “My husband and son work here in the evening and on the weekends we all work together.”

Heritage Park sits on an orange grove, which sells fruit during the rest of the year.

“There’s not too many places where you can pick oranges these days,” Frank Molina said.

Many historical buildings, such as the Weber House, which was built in 1885, sit on the grounds.

“Except for the orange grove, all of these buildings were brought here as part of a living museum,” Braida said.

Tours of the Weber House are offered, giving visitors an opportunity to see not only the historical house, but also the antiques inside. Many schools consider a field trip to the historical structures at Heritage Park an educational experience.

“I see a lot of the kids. I make the appointments for schools,” volunteer Fumi Houghtaling said.

People like Houghtaling, the Molinas and Braida make the running of Heritage Park possible, since all of the workers are volunteers.

“We’ve got a great group of volunteers,” Braida said. “But we could always use more.”

The park is open Monday through Friday from noon to 8:30 p.m. and weekends from 9 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.

For more information about the park or the Heritage Found­ation, visit laverneheritage.org.

Megan Sebestyen can be reached at megan.sebestyen@laverne.edu.

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