The Cambrian

Change in season brings about Cambria Christmas Market preparations

Sure signs that the seasons are shifting in Cambria:

• The hundreds of scarecrows that have been on display for a month go into hibernation on Friday;

• There’s a flurry of activity as people change their clocks back to Pacific Standard Time at 2 a.m. Sunday;

• Halloween decorations are replaced by Thanksgiving turkeys, pilgrims and autumn leaves;

• And work has already begun toward transforming some of the grounds of the Cambria Pines Lodge into the eighth annual outdoor Christmas Market.

This year’s Market — with more than 2 million lights in dioramas and displays, 30 artisan vendors, photos with Santa, Christmas dinners, fire pits and live music nightly — happens from 5 to 9 p.m. Nov. 29 through Dec. 23 (closed on two Mondays, Dec. 2 and 9). Because Thanksgiving falls so late in November, the 2019 Market’s 23-night run is a bit shorter than usual.

The market, which replicates many experiences from similar events in Germany, stretches to include Cambria Nursery and Florist, across Burton Drive from the Lodge.

Children 10 years and younger are admitted into the Market for free, as long as they’re accompanied by a supervising adult with a ticket. Event admission prices vary per night, ranging from $10 to $25 per person.

Tickets are sold online in advance. With an attendance maximum each evening, some nights will sell out. On those evenings, at-the-door tickets (which cost an additional $10) will not be available. Details are available online.

For details and tickets (yes, they’re on sale already), go to cambriachristmasmarket.com/.

Parking issues raised

At the event, parking at the Cambria Pines Lodge is reserved for hotel guests and limited handicapped parking. According to a recent media release about the market, free parking is available at Coast Union High School (2950 Santa Rosa Creek Road), with free shuttles to the event. Overflow parking will take place at The Brambles and an East Village public parking lot, as needed.

The last shuttle pick-up at the school lot is at 8 p.m. and admission to the event closes at 8:15 p.m. each evening. The last shuttle leaves the Market at 9:15 p.m.

This year, there will also be a shuttle to and from select hotels on Moonstone Beach, including the Sea Otter Inn, FogCatcher Inn, Sand Pebbles Inn and Oceanpoint Ranch.

The parking issue has been a topic of concern on some social media sites and at a recent Coast Unified School District Board of Trustees meeting. In online chats, some people posted that they thought the lodge/market should pay more for those parking privileges.

According to the Feb. 7, 2019, contract included in the board’s Oct. 10 agenda packet, the market pays $10 per night for use of the parking lots at Cambria Grammar School, Santa Lucia Middle School and Coast Union High School/Leffingwell High School, for a total of $690, plus custodial fees of $27 per hour (additional custodial fees may be charged, if applicable). The contract’s cost is based on use of five hours per day at $2 per hour.

It’s also the rate charged for anybody else’s use of the lots, according to Kyle Martin, the district’s assistant superintendent. However, parking areas aren’t among the facilities listed on the district’s “facility use fee schedule,” which also states that “any space/room not shown on the chart will be calculated the same as a classroom.” Classroom rents are $18 an hour for profit organizations and $8.40 for nonprofits, or $108 per day for profit organizations and $50.40 for nonprofits.

District Superintendent Scott Smith told The Cambrian in an email interview that “the rates were established before I came to the district. We are not sure how the rates were established as it does not fit into the general fee schedule.”

He said the recent board discussion “was centered on where we are at now and where should this go in the future. The result of the discussion was that we want to make sure we are fulfilling our commitments that have already been made and we will be taking a fresh look at next year’s event. It will probably result in a memorandum of understanding being established since parking lots are not part of our regular fee schedule. As far as public input, it was voiced that the access we are providing is worth more than the current rate but I am not sure of who it was that provided that input. We just want to make sure we are a positive partner with the community.”

The next school board meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 14, in the board meeting room, 1350 Main St.

The Cambrian reached out for comment from Lodge owner Dirk Winter and other representatives of the facility and the Market, but had not yet received a reply when this story was submitted.

However, Winter did provide an answer to comments made on the Nextdoor website, saying in part that “We have been working hard to limit negative impacts associated with traffic and parking during the Christmas Market. We are working hard trying to benefit our whole community including the schools …. We have always paid the schools the compensation that was asked for in cash and trade. We have suggested that the PTA or Boosters operate the parking for any fee that they think makes sense.”

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