Photo courtesy of Harvest by Hillwood.

Some community associations are known for robust holiday events and activities that engage residents and raise spirits during the season. They invest in programming that makes a collection of homes into a community, turns neighbors into friends, and increases property values. These efforts have become more important than ever during the COVID-19 pandemic.

East Lake Village Community Association in Yorba Linda, Calif., is bringing back its “winter wonderland” event after a year’s hiatus. In addition to organizing visits from Santa Claus, food trucks, pony rides, and plenty of holiday spirit, the community located southeast of Los Angeles will be dumping more than 30 tons of snow on common areas for play and slides. The showcase, however, is the lighted boat parade in which more than 40 decorated boats cruise around the lake and the lights on nearly 200 homes sparkle off the water.

“Our events help to promote community spirit and keep neighbors engaged. They help to create not just a cluster of houses, but a community of homes,” says Susan Janowicz, CMCA, AMS, general manager of East Lake Village. “We also have seen the benefit of increased and sustained property values.”

Last year, East Lake Village transitioned to fun activities that anyone could join in on, such as a food drive, a turkey hunt, an elf-on-the-shelf hunt, and holiday window decorations. For the hunts, residents had to find the item, snap a picture with it, and return to the community clubhouse to receive a treat. The community canceled its annual Halloween event in 2020 but created a hay bale maze that kids and adults enjoyed.

“We’ve planned for more outdoor events and activities this year,” says Janowicz. “Our goal is to keep everyone safe, make them feel comfortable, and let them know we are all still here and in this together.”

Harvest by Hillwood in Argyle, Texas, planned a robust calendar with fall and holiday events like piggy races, a music series, a turkey trot, market shopping days, a tree lighting, a jingle mingle party, holiday lights and carriage rides, breakfast with Santa, reindeer games, and more.

The 1,200-acre large-scale community under development in the Dallas-Fort Worth area planned a similar calendar last year. It has hosted most events outside where residents can socially distance.

The community’s events and activities help it accomplish a goal of creating a space where people get to know each other, have shared experiences, and create memories.

“We have a culture of doing life together. Our neighbors really do become like family. Our hashtag is #HarvestBetterTogether because we know that when you do life together, it’s better,” says Page Austin, Harvest’s lifestyle manager.

Austin prides herself in creating events and activities where residents get to enjoy their community and develop deeper friendships.

“We create ‘sticky’ environments where people want to come and stick around,” she says. “I love at the end of the event when I am closing things down and people are still hanging out. That’s a win. They don’t just come and go. They actually stick around.”

>> Find ideas for holiday events and activities and more tips for the season in “The Ultimate Guide to the Best Holiday Ever,” from the November/December 2021 issue of CAI’s Common Ground magazine.

  • Daniel Brannigan

    Daniel Brannigan is CAI's Director of Publishing and Managing Editor of Common Ground™ magazine. He has been editor of CAI's flagship publication since 2010 and previously edited CAI's newsletters Community Manager, Minutes, and Law Reporter. Daniel has helped guide Common Ground to awards for feature article design and single-topic issue from Association Media & Publishing's EXCEL Awards. Community Manager picked up six awards for general excellence and newswriting under Daniel's guidance from 2007-2010. A former reporter, Daniel is a graduate of Syracuse University's S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. He lives in Philadelphia with his wife, daughter, pug, and cat.

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