Nearly 300 Sonoma Valley children enjoyed a day of holiday cheer under sunny skies at Sonoma Raceway on Saturday at the 15th annual "Race to the Holidays" Children’s Christmas Party.
The raceway teamed up with the Sonoma chapter of Speedway Children’s Charities (SCC) to host the children and their families at the event, which featured a race-car display, balloon animals, face painting, caroling and a visit from Santa Claus, who arrived via Schell-Vista Fire Protection District fire truck.
The event, which has drawn more than 3,600 children since its inception in 2005, culminated with Santa Claus presenting each child with a full bag of toys and a stuffed animal, as well as a toiletry kit courtesy of Verizon. Children ranged in age from newborn to 12 years old.
"Today is our first time (at Race to the Holidays Christmas Party) and it’s our new Christmas tradition," said Sonoma resident and mother of three, Deanna Oliveros. "The highlight of the day was seeing Santa. My kids love singing and so they really enjoyed singing the Christmas songs and I did too!"
Upon hearing the children singing his favorite tune, "Santa Claus is Coming to Town," Santa greeted the children on his way into the event hall before handing out gifts. The children left the raceway with new toys and wide smiles after a complimentary lunch at the Raceway Café.
"My favorite part of the day is the balloons and seeing Santa," said eight-year-old Camila, who attended the party for her third consecutive year. "I always get the pink poodle balloon animal. I like getting presents, but I also like seeing my family happy and together."
All children were pre-registered through five Sonoma Valley youth groups, including the El Verano Elementary School, Friends in Sonoma Helping (F.I.S.H.), La Luz, Stand By Me Sonoma Mentoring and the Sonoma Valley Teen Parent Program
The raceway received a generous outpouring of support from the community as more than 1,200 toys were donated for the party. Supporters of this year’s event included: Clover Sonoma, Exchange Bank, Gundlach Bundschu Winery, Levy Restaurants, Patterson Dental, Pat Milligan, The Save Mart Companies, Schell-Vista Fire Protection District, Sonoma Brands, Sonoma Greens, Sonoma Valley Fire and Rescue Authority, Verizon and Viansa Sonoma. SCC, the charitable arm of Sonoma Raceway, has distributed $6.8 million in grants to Sonoma County youth organizations since 2001.