The City of Hollister marked a milestone with cake and entertainment Saturday at the Veterans Memorial Building.
“The 40th anniversary of the recreation department is an amazing accomplishment,” Hollister City Councilman Jim Gillio told a crowd of locals and parks department staff – past and present – at the celebratory gala.
Recreation supervisor Tina Garza explained the extent of the department’s involvement in the city as she stood before a display of more than 2,000 photos of activities taken over the last four decades.
“We provide a lot of services, adult and youth sports, and special events like Breakfast with Santa. We do a lot of summertime events like the Junior Giants program, which is free,” she said.
As Gillio cut the anniversary cake, a white frosted confection topped with a giant ornament in the shape of the number 40, he highlighted the role volunteers play in supporting department programs.
“We just had a gentleman onstage, Jim Hart, who was honored for his service even though he’s no longer a city employee. He goes above and beyond to come out and help the community. That’s amazing,” he said.
Hart was given a volunteer distinguished service award.
“He takes pictures, assists us with what we need and helps us find volunteers,” said Special Events Coordinator Jennifer Rodriguez. “Without his help, a lot of our projects and programs wouldn’t be able to exist. We rely on our community and volunteers to help pull everything together.”
Later in the evening, a second distinguished service award was presented to Marietta De La Cruz, the longest serving instructor in the department.
De La Cruz, 49, first got involved with Hollister recreation programs when she was 12 years old. After attending University of California, Davis and four years of active duty in the military, De La Cruz returned to Hollister and began teaching martial arts.
“I came back and took over the karate school,” De La Cruz said. “They were going to shut it down because there was some turmoil going on, but I’ve kept it alive since 1999 and it’s going strong.”
De La Cruz said she likes that classes are kept affordable.
“A lot of karate schools charge a lot and not everyone can do it,” she said. “My parents were farmers and we couldn’t afford the expensive stuff and the programs were affordable for me. We just love to have kids learn to defend themselves and become confident people.”
The free, anniversary event featured local entertainment by the San Benito Dance Academy, Barnes Academy of Irish Dancing, Sammy’s Animation Dance Community, Yamamoto Ohana Hula, singer/songwriter Kya Andrade and country singer Martin Pulido.
Contributors included The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), Ohana Shaved Ice, Dino’s Hot Diggity Dogs, MANA food vendors and Safeway bakery.