Walking through a winter wonderland

first_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORERose Parade grand marshal Rita Moreno talks New Year’s Day outfit and ‘West Side Story’ remake And so the Simi Valley and Chatsworth Historical Societies can continue keeping the past alive for future generations. “What these two guys do for us and other groups in the community out of the goodness of their hearts is just incredible,” says Gerhard Runken, fundraising chairman for the local Habitat chapter. This year, more than 600 people spent $15 each to walk through Rick and Jerry’s home. The last one left about 10 p.m. Wednesday. “It all pretty exhausting, but worth it,” Rick said, closing the door. “So many people tell us they thought they knew what to expect. But when they got inside, and took it all in, it was like, oh my gosh, disbelief. “The first year we had about 50 people show up. Now it’s more than 600, and not one decoration got broken.” SIMI VALLEY – Christmas comes early to the home of Rick Angel and Jerry Amiot on Hidden Ranch Drive – the day after Thanksgiving, to be exact. For the past 17 years, the owners of Chatsworth Florist have spent the eight days after Thanksgiving transforming their home into a veritable North Pole, complete with 22 large, beautifully decorated Christmas trees. Then they allow some 160 people to tour their winter wonderland for six straight nights to benefit local charities and community groups. Their hard work raises money so the San Fernando/Santa Clarita Valley chapter of Habitat for Humanity can buy supplies for the homes it’s building in Pacoima. The tours got started by accident really, Jerry said. One of the customers at their florist shop was the wife of a Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy. “She heard about how we go crazy decorating our home for Christmas every year, and asked if she could bring a group of friends by as part of a fundraiser they were having for some charities the wives supported.” Sure, Rick and Jerry said. Sounded like fun. Seventeen years later, they’ve become the hottest Christmas tour in Simi Valley. They don’t have to advertise. They sell out every year on word of mouth alone. “We put a 160 max on it nightly so people don’t feel too cramped,” Rick said. “We figured they’d walk around and spend maybe 15 minutes or a half-hour before leaving.” Wrong. The average tour time through their winter wonderland runs 90 minutes – or longer. The wine and cheese they serve for free might have something to do with it, but not all. Even if you stayed the full three-hour tour, you’d have trouble taking in all the Christmas decorations Rick and Jerry put up. Sure it’s exhausting, working at the florist shop all day and opening your home up at night for tours, they say. But when people stop by your shop after Christmas to thank you, it’s worth it. When you get words of gratitude from the local historical societies and from the Habitat for Humanity volunteers, it’s worth it. “It takes us eight days to put all this up, and a day and a half to take it down and pack it away until next year,” Rick said, closing down the 2005 Christmas tour. “Sure it’s a lot of work, but the truth is, we love every minute of it. It’s Christmas. What’s better than that?” Not much. If you want to check out their winter wonderland tour next year, stop by Chatsworth Florist, 21727 Devonshire Blvd., around Thanksgiving, and pick up a couple of tickets. But don’t wait too long. Christmas comes early over at Rick and Jerry’s place. Dennis McCarthy’s column appears Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday. Dennis McCarthy, (818) 713-3749 [email protected] 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img