Posted: Friday, Nov 30th, 2018

By Visit Ventura

Reflecting on the last year

by Visit Ventura

December 4th will always hold special meaning for Venturans. But it’s not just the anniversary of the Thomas Fire; it’s the day that re-shaped our holiday season and brought Venturans closer together than ever before. Neighbors at Surfer’s Point rallied to gather surfboards, stand-up paddle boards, and wetsuits to lend to first responders during their time off. Fox Fine Jewelry designed diamond necklaces to give to everyone who lost their home. Daily 1,500-2,000 meals were prepared in the commercial kitchen at Mission San Buenaventura by professional chefs and hundreds of volunteers. Pete’s Breakfast House made hundreds of breakfast burritos and dropped them off at Ventura County Fairgrounds for any hungry first responders. On, and on, and on, everybody made sure everyone was taken care of and could feel the love pouring into Ventura from around the world. It’s been hard not to relive the experience since additional fires impacted our county last month, and many more fires impacted our state this year. We won’t forget what our community went through or that many are still waiting to rebuild their homes. And in commemorating the anniversary, there are many ways we can make December 4th a special day. In no particular order, here are 10 ways to show your love for Ventura on the anniversary of the Thomas Fire.

10. Cruise with Island Packers

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When mudslides closed the 101 freeway between Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, there were many -including doctors, nurses, volunteers, and evacuees, that couldn’t get to work or couldn’t get home to be with loved ones. Island Packers did not hesitate to help. Although they don’t usually operate in Santa Barbara and already had significant business losses due to the fire, they set up special transportation between Ventura and Santa Barbara counties to get everybody where they needed to be. They have since won a Spirit of Small Business Award honoring their commitment to our community. Thank them by booking a whale watching cruise, holiday caroling cruise, or a trip to our beautiful Channel Islands National Park.

9. Visit Arroyo Verde Park

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After the fire, Arroyo Verde Park was one of the most impacted areas in Ventura. Come spring, it was one of the most beautiful. The park is the perfect place to contemplate the strength and resilience of our community.

8. Support World Central Kitchen efforts

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During the Thomas Fire, San Buenaventura Mission opened its doors for the World Central Kitchen to set up shop. Dedicated volunteers eager to do their part to thank first responders and help those affected by the Thomas Fire prepared and delivered over 35,000 meals through the month of December. World Central Kitchen’s founder, Chef José Andrés, has since been awarded the 2018 James Beard Humanitarian Award, a well-deserved honor for someone who has made a difference in Ventura and around the world. The organization continues to feed first responders and victims after disasters and your support is always appreciated.

7. Attend Holidays at the Plaza

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The Thomas Fire began only a couple of days after Downtown Ventura’s annual holiday tree lighting and a few days before the first-ever Holidays at the Plaza event. Over 160 sparkling Christmas trees were planned for the inaugural Candy Cane Forest, each sponsored by businesses, organizations, and families around town. With persevering spirits and masks on, many proceeded to decorate their trees but the majority of the events were canceled due to air quality. This year, Holidays at the Plaza will kick off on December 7th with free outdoor movie screenings of How the Grinch Stole Christmas and Polar Express. Celebrate our resilient community with popcorn, food trucks, and family fun surrounded by sparkling trees.

6. Write thank you letters to first responders

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While first responders such as fire and police are (and should be!) widely thanked by the communities they help, many others stand away from the spotlight but are just as worthy of thank yous. These include paramedics, hospital staff, harbor patrol, public information officers, animal control, park rangers, FEMA officials, National Guard, and American Red Cross volunteers. What better way to commemorate the Thomas Fire than to be grateful for those who made a difference.

5. Volunteer with the American Red Cross

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The American Red Cross is tasked by the federal government with providing services to members of the American armed forces and their families as well as providing disaster relief in the United States and around the world. They respond to an emergency every 8 minutes. From small house fires to multi-state natural disasters, the American Red Cross goes wherever they’re needed, so people can have clean water, safe shelter and hot meals when they need them most. 95% of disaster relief workers are volunteers and they could always use more help.

4. Shop local

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When a crisis like the Thomas Fire occurs, businesses, even those outside of the area of direct impact, can be hard hit due to misinformation or information overload. In the aftermath of the Thomas Fire, images of smoke and flames led many, especially those less familiar with Ventura, to conclude that all of Ventura had been impacted. This is challenging for businesses at any time of the year but especially in December when they are counting on holiday sales to drive annual profit. During the Thomas Fire, there were many small businesses in Ventura struggling to communicate that they were open for business. This can sound insensitive at a time when the community is grieving the loss of entire neighborhoods but small businesses are the backbone of Ventura’s economy and help define its identity; shopping local is one of the best ways to ensure the community gets on the road to recovery.

3. Shop at Farmers’ Markets

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The size of the Thomas Fire and the length of time it lasted meant that most crops around Ventura were impacted either by smoke or flames. Some were saved while others were lost. It was a challenging time for local farmers and one of the best ways to show them love is to shop at your local Farmers’ Market.

2. Build your emergency preparedness kit

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The power outage during the Thomas Fire meant that ATMs weren’t working, automatic garage doors were opening, street lights were out, and gas pumps weren’t pumping. We learned about the importance of keeping cash in our pockets and gas in our tanks. Some remembered to grab important documents and medications before evacuating but it was impossible to remember everything. Pet food and water for our furry friends, phone chargers, pillows, reading glasses -it’s much easier with a plan and a prepared kit. It’s also one of the best ways to help first responders because it improves our ability to evacuate quickly and give them the space they need to respond.

1. Share Ventura’s story

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The best way to show your love for Ventura on the anniversary of the Thomas Fire is to share Ventura’s story. Ventura has never been on as many national headlines or trending posts as during the Thomas Fire and the effects of the media coverage are lasting. It can be difficult for those not familiar with Ventura to understand that Ventura was impacted but remains a gorgeous beach town set on California’s Central Coast with a booming craft beer scene, tasty eats, live music, and big welcoming smiles. The best lesson we learned from the Thomas Fire is that our community can get through anything together. A year on, we couldn’t be more proud of the community and the place we call home.

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