Message from Matthew Millspaugh

Happy New Year to all our California State Parks Partners! Thank you so much for the immeasurably valuable work you have done for California's State Parks! The past two years have created obstacles and opportunities that we have seen our dedicated partners, volunteers, and staff rise to meet. We are thankful for your ongoing support of the mission of health, inspiration, and education of the people of California.  The Partnerships Team looks forward to the exciting opportunities our partnerships will bring in the coming year and we look forward to our continued work together. Be safe and again a very Happy New Year to you all.

Holiday Features

Railtown 1897: Polar Express
By: Justine Kardad, Partnerships Division
"Seeing is believing, but, sometimes, the most real things in the world are the things we can't see." - Conductor, Polar Express
The morning of December 6th seemed different. Maybe it was the cold brisk air in Jamestown, the friendly faces running around the park to prepare for the big day, or maybe it’s because two team members from the Partnerships Division were about to embark on a magical journey known as the Polar Express at Railtown 1897 State Historic Park (SHP)!

The Polar Express is   one of the largest  holiday events in Northern California due to the magic it offers park visitors and the love many have for the Polar Express book and movie that is brought to life. Tickets go on sale to members in September and to the public in October. The event is incredibly popular and quickly sells out. The park staff and volunteers truly deliver an immersive experience, kicking off the holiday season. 

 Once you land on the Railtown 1897 SHP website and head to the Polar Express page it reads, “Live the magical journey of the Polar Express™ Train Ride. Relive the magical journey of The Polar Express on an hour-long train ride to the North Pole. Once you reach the North Pole, the jolly old elf- Santa himself- will come on board to give each passenger a silver sleighbell, the first gift of Christmas.” How can you not get excited to hop on board? 

Volunteer coordinator, Robert Reif, set up a visit where we met the volunteers, staff, and crew members, toured the park, and rode the Polar Express. During the tour, we saw the grand 1922 Baldwin Locomotive that was used in the Polar Express movie for the train sounds and met the “elves” who make the hot cocoa. (Fun fact: they make 770 gallons of the most delicious hot cocoa we’ve ever had!). While interviewing Dianna Turner, who has been volunteering for this event since 2017, we learned her favorite part of Polar Express is, “the excitement, and watching the kids smile, and having a great time!” This is what truly sums up the event - when you look around at the sea of kids, families, and loved ones (some who are dressed in their matching pajamas), running around with their light-up toys and enjoying the hot cocoa, it displays the spirit of the holidays.

  Each part of the train is festively adorned by the decorating committee and has its own theme. During the train ride, performers dance and sing to the famous “Hot Chocolate!” song while the story is read by volunteers showing the pictures as you make your way to the North Pole. Riding back, Santa himself comes out and gives everyone a silver bell.

We interviewed volunteer, Walter Pierson who has been volunteering since 2014, who said his favorite part of the Polar Express is, “Building it, riding it, and it’s so much fun acting on it. When I did this, it was the gift I could give to people, and it turned out it was the guests who gave us the gift.”

This event is threaded with every bit of magic, sparkle, and imagination of the volunteers, staff, and everyone who helps make this event possible. Thank you again to Volunteer Coordinator, Robert Reif, Volunteer Event Coordinator Jeannie Teschke, volunteer Diana Turner, & the many others who helped make our visit so special.



One thing about trains: It doesn't matter where they're goin'. What matters is deciding to get on.- Conductor, Polar Express
William B. Ide Adobe Story Walk & Holiday Celebration
By: Heather Lee, Northern Buttes District
William B. Ide Adobe State Historic Park in Red Bluff was pleased to host a StoryWalk®, photo opportunities, and some holiday crafts for visitors on Saturday, December 11, 2021. Many families with young children enjoyed refreshments, two traditional holiday crafts, homestead tours, a spinning demonstration, and the story, “A Loud Winter’s Nap” by Katy Hudson while walking through the park. Matt Teague, Northern Buttes District Supervisor, also stopped by to enjoy the activities. 
Attendees began their visit with a cup of warm wassail to drink with a snickerdoodle cookie while making orange and clove pomanders with Interpreter Jennifer Pooley. Many followed the trail for the self-guided StoryWalk® along the Sacramento River before heading inside the Visitor’s Center to enjoy the exhibit and a wool spinning demonstration by Trinna Higgs of the Ide Adobe Interpretive Association. Volunteer, Alison Calkins led families in making swags made of fir, redwood, eucalyptus, pinecones, and bows. Senior Park Aide Heather Lee provided tours of the adobe homestead to several families.

Staff and volunteers were pleased with the turnout and enjoyed the opportunities for public engagement.

Holidays at The Bidwell Mansion State Historic Park
By: Elijah Yager, Bidwell Mansion SHP and Terri Lopez, Northern Buttes District

The Bidwell Mansion Association, Bidwell Mansion State Historic Park’s Nonprofit partner, is bringing festive holiday cheer to the mansion with a seasonal vignette. The Association will transport the viewer back in time to see a Christmas dinner at the mansion. Pre-pandemic, the vignette would be part of a larger program of night tours, with staff and volunteers in period attire welcoming visitors into the three-story Italianate Villa for an evening of music, stories, and refreshments. To ensure continued safety of staff and the visiting public, this year the recorded vignette will instead be available on the Bidwell Mansion Association’s Facebook and Youtube pages. 
Preparing for filming in a historic home is quite the undertaking in its own right. When everything around you is a numbered piece in the State’s collection, great care must be taken to ensure that nothing is placed in a position that could compromise its safety. To allow the performance to be filmed as scripted, the actors would need to sit at the dining room table. However, under the guidelines of collections management, using the mansion’s chairs was not possible. They, along with the tableware, had to be moved to a safe location and replaced with pieces provided by the BMA that the actors could interact with.
The filming took place on a Saturday, after the mansion closed to public tours. A State Parks staff member stayed to keep the mansion unlocked and over the following four hours, members of the Association’s Board of Directors and volunteers were kept busy acting out the various parts, directing, and filming.  The completed vignette, once prepared and edited, will be posted online for public viewing. 

"Christmas with the Bidwells" vignette, filmed in the Mansion.

Year in Review

Gallery of Holiday and Cheer

Thank you!

The Partnerships Division Team hope you and your loved ones had a great holiday season and wish you a Happy New Year!
Thank you to each and every one of our California State Parks, Concessions, Cooperating Associations, Proud Partners, and Volunteers for your support and for a great year.
Best, The Partnerships Division Team

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