La Jollans get into the holiday spirit with new decorations


By Gina McGalliard

While many people decorate their homes or businesses for the holidays, La Jollans may have noticed a few locations that are particularly festive this season.

In front of Cafe Milano restaurant on Pearl Street, one can see a little pink Fiat 500 with an inflatable Santa Claus inside who appears to be driving the car between the hours of 3:30 and 10 p.m. The restaurant also has a singing Santa who stands at the entrance next to a stack of presents to greet diners.

Chef and owner Pasquale Cianni said he puts his decorations up the day after Thanksgiving, and they stay until the first day of the New Year.

“I see a lot of people stop and take a picture,” he said. “Kids get a kick out of it. [The car] looks like a little toy.”

At Barbarella’s restaurant, large inflatable figures of snowmen, Christmas presents and snow globes can be seen at the entrance and on the building’s rooftop. The interior is similarly decked out, with more than 100 stockings hung by the windows and ornaments and lights hanging from the ceiling. Even the restroom has a singing snowman.

Owner Barbara Beltaire said what motivates her to decorate so elaborately is the joy that it brings to people, customers and employees alike.

“The main focus is for people to come in and enjoy the holiday spirit and to have fun,” she said.

A drive along Nautilus at night reveals one house (1825) that is fully decked out.

“I have probably at least 35,000 lights this year,” estimated homeowner Kenneth Heath, who has been decorating the house for the past 15 holiday seasons. In addition to lights, the house also has wooden stand-up figures, which Heath, who does carpentry as a hobby, made himself. The figures include an angel, a toy soldier and the Grinch, which greets guests by the doorway.

The lights near the street side are white, to represent snow. The rest of the decorations are multicolored, which was inspired by the movie “The Wizard of Oz.”

“The beginning of the movie is in black and white, and then it progresses into color,” Heath explained.

As for what makes him want to decorate, Heath said that in working in retail for almost 40 years, he saw a lot of the negativity associated with the holiday season. With his decorations, he hopes to “bring a little Christmas joy to people in their busy lives and stop and realize there is a reason for Christmas.”

“Ultimately the message is that there is a reason for Christmas,” Heath said.

The house also has a box out in front to collect canned goods, which Heath and his wife Lois give to a charitable organization that helps people get off welfare and back to work, which the couple began doing in 1999.

Another showpiece home in La Jolla, which has its halls - and everything else - decked, is the corner property of Jon and Deborah Vietor at 8389 El Paseo Grande in La Jolla Shores. Jon is Catholic and Deborah is Jewish, and between the two they cover all the holiday bases in their decoration scheme. “I’ve got a Hanukkah menorah and animals, a reindeer and bear, and a gigantic snowman globe and stacks of presents and multi-colored lights around the house and the walkway,” said Deborah. “There are candy canes that light up.”

Jokingly referring to her Christmas display as a “confused Griswold family,” from the Chevy Chase movie “Christmas Vacation,” Deborah Vietor said she and her husband just love Christmas and the holidays. “We just have the best of everything,” she said. “We just like to share the holiday with everyone.”

Deborah said it’s also nice to get compliments from people on their holiday display. “People come by all the time and say, ‘It’s awesome,’ ” she said. “It’s especially great with getting comments from the little kids. That’s kind of what it’s all about.”