Close-knit Hollister neighborhood decks out for holidays

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NEIGHBORHOOD PRIDE Mike Soto’s home is one of the many decked out for the holidays along Severinsen Street in Hollister. Photo courtesy of Mike Soto

If one finds themself on Severinsen Street in Hollister, they’ll find a kind of wholesomeness that is uncommon for this century. 

A tree-lined street with unique foliage; two story homes; cozy front porches—one can feel immediately teleported into a 1950s television sitcom. 

And while the majority of the homes have only existed since the late-1980s, residents have since been decorating their homes for Halloween and Christmas in such a way that brings the entire community to marvel at it during the holidays.

But a neighborhood known for its holiday decor as much as its curb appeal—can it truly be as close-knit as it appears? Get to know some of its neighbors, and one won’t need to ask twice.

Mike Soto, a 30-year resident of Severinsen Street, can recall when the street’s holiday flare became the talk of town.

“I don’t remember anybody neighbors saying, ‘Come on everybody, let’s decorate,’” he recalled. “Nobody spearheaded the decorating; we just started decorating a little more at a time and it started getting noticed, like, ‘Hey, there are two-story homes that people are decorating from top to bottom!’”

Cruising the street soon became a holiday tradition for local families. At the start of December every year, passersby can get glimpses of Mr. and Mrs. Claus, snowmen, nativity scenes, and many, many, lights. Houses also compete to be deemed the “best decorated” for the winter holidays. Prizes such as gift cards to the movie theater or local restaurants are up for grabs, all bought with money that participating neighbors pitch in from recyclables.  

“My home won 14 years in a row,” Soto said. “Then all the sudden they said, ‘OK, you know what, the winner is going to be the judge for next year.’”

Halloween has also become a festive time for the street; possibly even more so than the Christmas holiday. 

Resident Megan Hurtado recalled when she began realizing the significance of the street’s Halloween charm.  

“It didn’t seem like we were doing anything spectacular because it’s just what we do,” she said. “But then I drove over to [nearby streets] and I thought, ‘Wow, people really don’t decorate for Halloween!’”

Although the city wouldn’t provide one this year due to the pandemic, residents pitch in each year on Halloween to obtain a city permit to close the street—for the safety of trick-or-treaters. 

“The community is appreciative,” Hurtado noted. “That’s why they come.”

But the lights and the trimmings aren’t the only reasons people are drawn to the street. The closeness of the neighborhood can also be felt as well as seen there. 

“We have a very close-knit neighborhood, and everyone has their neighbors’ contact information,” explained Bill Parcell, who has been a resident since 2003. “We all look out for each other and enjoy spending time together.” 

And he isn’t exaggerating.

Prior to Covid-19, the families on the street would gather for an annual Christmas party, with each home taking turns hosting. Neighbors come together for hors d’oeuvres, desserts, a visit from Santa Claus, and vote for the winners of the decorating contest. 

“Around 7:30, a group will walk the street and there will be a vote on best decorations,” Parcell recalled.

Passersby can also find the street closed on the Fourth of July (pre-Covid), when the street celebrates its annual block party. 

“There’s wine tasting, the kids have a lemonade stand, and there’s a little parade at the end,” Hurtado explained.

Parcell also noted the scheduled events throughout that day, beginning with an Eastside versus Westside softball (or kickball) game at Ladd Lane School. 

“The Fourth of July block party is incredible,” he said. “There’s a kids parade at noon. There are kids’ games all day— water wars, a volleyball tournament, a basketball tournament, and a jump house. Everyone brings out their barbecues around three o’clock and we have dinner. A live band starts playing around four until six in the evening, and then we have clean-up and fireworks.”

No, this neighborhood is not common for this day and age—not even for the quaint town of Hollister. But the residents of Severinsen Street have made it hospitable and joyful, not only for themselves, but for the entire town. And they are happy to spread that joy to the revelers who drive by it, admiring the street’s holiday spirit.

“I have only heard nice things from the community about our neighborhood,” Parcell said. “Most people from Hollister know what you’re talking about when you mention Severinsen Street.”

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