Christmas at Atalaya Huntington Beach State Park holds annual holiday event in historic castle

  • Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Anita Crone/For The Times The Stingrays combined handmade crafts with greenery.


Atalaya threw its annual shindig on Saturday and even rapidly dropping temperatures couldn’t stop 400 hardy souls from gathering at Huntington Beach State Park for the festivities sponsored by the park’s friends group.

While the guests, for the most part, were dressed in their warmest attire, Atalaya’s rooms were more fashion-conscious, spruced up in their holiday finest by individuals and community groups in hopes of gaining bragging rights for winning the People’s Choice or the Celebration Excellence awards.

For some who planned the rooms, the labor was a race against the clock.

“I finished last night,” said Sandra Barnes, who decorated one of the servant’s rooms with painted shells, driftwood and basketry – all with items she found on the beach or had collected earlier in the year. “But I already have ideas for next year,” she said.

Barbara Marshall and Dee Braswell, members of the Grand Strand Master Gardeners, welcomed a steady stream of people to the master bedroom. “We thought it apropos to decorate the bedroom with a flower bed,” Marshall said, pointing to the poinsettias that served as a blanket over the small bed.

And, there was no stopping the youngsters from Seaside Elementary School in the sunroom, who captured their fourth consecutive People’s Choice Award. Candy canes and even Pawley, a fabric bird, were among the offerings.

“Remember to vote for the sun room,” four of the students exhorted the people visiting the room.

The Seaside group was not the only returning decorators. Also back were Dandelions, Calla’s Florist and the Grand Strand Model Train Club, not to mention repeat Celebration Excellence Award winner Barbara Bartha for turning the servants’ living room into a highbrow dining room worthy of the home’s owners, Anna Hyatt Huntington and Archer Huntington.

New this year were games for the children, a magician and Santa, although the groups that sponsored those activities acknowledged that they had more adults than children getting into the holiday spirit.

While an actor portraying Anna Hyatt Huntington was there to greet guests, “Archer” was absent because the actor who usually portrayed him was ailing. And in a nod to the history of the house and grounds, William Allston, complete with walking stick, prowled the halls. Although Allston, the owner of the plantation that would become Brookgreen Gardens and the land on which Atalaya sits, never saw the Huntington’s house — he lived in the 1700s — he had praise for what the couple did with the land.

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