The Magical Christmas Caroling Truck


The following story was printed in the Tolucan newspaper, December 1996

A Christmas Truck Story
by Heidi Lietz

Imagine sitting at the table just finishing Christmas Eve dinner with your family when you begin to faintly hear the musical sounds of Christmas coming from the street. As you look out your window, you see and hear hundreds of people singing songs of the season as they ride by on The Magical Christmas Caroling Truck.

This story has been repeating itself for 13 years on Christmas Eve in the streets of Toluca Lake and North Hollywood. The Magical Christmas Caroling Truck is a sixty foot eighteen wheeler, adorned with magnificent Christmas scenes and thousands of sparkling lights. Riding and following the truck are over 200 singers and dancers, accompanied by a 4,500 watt sound system serenading local residents with traditional Christmas carols.

A HEART-WARMING TRADITION

What began over a decade ago with only a handful of carolers has grown to become a heart-warming Christmas tradition for the entire community. One of the organizers is Rick Holbrook, "Through the years this has actually become to look more like a Disneyland parade. We have about 200 carolers on and off the truck, including 30 dancers behind , Santa & his elves on his souped-up sleigh with many little helpers passing out candy and cookies along the way. People walk along and drive behind to sing carols from the neighborhood. Crowds reach up to 300 at times. People are dressed from tuxedos to bath robes as they come out of their homes and get caught up in the caroling."

People plan parties around Christmas Eve. The invitations extend to other countries. "We've met people from Europe, Brazil, and Australia who have come to LA to see us!" Families have moved their parties into these neighborhoods. "We've heard about friends and relatives inviting themselves over just so they can see the Truck."

It seems that this has become a tradition for some. Kids are growing up with it and have not known a Christmas without this magical event. One girl in her early teens said "I have seen the Truck every year since I can remember".

HOW IT STARTED

On Christmas Eve in 1984, at the end of a studio recording session, about 12 people decided to jump on the back of an old dump truck parked in an alley and decided to go Christmas caroling. On the truck, they put a generator, a couple strands of lights from the reception area of the studio, along with drums, bass, keyboards, a few mics and 12 great musicians that thought they could sing. Armed with their musical instruments and about three songs that they knew, they set out to spread some Christmas cheer. The response from the 10 mile route was overwhelming and every Christmas Eve since the Carolers and the truck have made their appearances in the same neighborhoods.

MAKING IT WORK

In the past, "...we've had to tear down the truck on Christmas Day. Last year, in a leap of faith, we purchased the truck. This is the first year we've owned the truck and as a result, we have been asked to carol earlier this year for a film (Dear God), at the Moorpark-Tujunga Village Holiday Open House on Dec 7th and the Studio City Holiday Open House on Dec 14th. Christmas Eve will be the 4th time we've used it in '96. It's been our coming-out, party year. We have been asked to come and sing at other Open House's and private parties in the area and even as far away as Palm Springs. There has been talk of caroling down Riverside Drive next Christmas season for the Toluca Lake Open House and also the Hollywood Christmas Parade."

The community has come to support it. This is a non-profit event. It has not been supported by a big company, and we've been able to pay for it every year. The carolers all chip in and so does the people in neighborhoods. We build it with all volunteer labor. It takes quite a number of people to help pull it off. There are sound crews, light crews, generator and electric crews. There are drivers, traffic and security crews and on and on. Imagine putting up hundreds of strands of Christmas lights on your house and looking for that one light bulb that always goes out... We even have a restroom. In the early years there was Santa's outhouse on it's own float. People still talk about it. You can spot it if you look close.

For the last few years, the LAPD has been escorting the truck through the night allowing the 100 foot parade to cross Camirillo many times as the Carolers wind their way through the neighborhoods. "It's quite a sight when the officers park their car right in the middle of the big intersection of Vineland, Lankershim and Camirillo and turn on their lights and sirens to stop traffic for the Truck and it's parade of carolers."...We've also seen officers who have passed out presents, then get a call and speed off to handle it.

THE SPIRIT OF THE NIGHT

Holbrook says that "...while walking with the truck, a few streets of Toluca Lake and North Hollywood magically become like a small town, you know, like Mayberry. They come out of their homes, smile and talk with each other. Because of so many neighbors being outside at one time, they are getting to know each other after we pass by. And we're talking about thousands of people over the course of the evening. We see all types of people, rich and poor, famous and not, every race, together. We are all together for one night. We've made many friends. Really, it should be this way always."

"If you live in the route area, come out Christmas Eve and join in. If you don't live on the route, see the map for approximate locations and times, pack up the family in the car, find us and join in. It is very easy to find The Caroling Truck, just roll down your car window and listen!" For those who can't make it, you can usually count on seeing the truck on news stations on Christmas Eve.

The Magical Christmas Caroling Truck can be seen in the streets of Toluca Lake and North Hollywood between dusk and eleven PM on Christmas Eve, rain (snow?) or shine. For more information call 818-764-1421.