It’s not every day that BenitoLink lands an exclusive interview with the biggest celebrity on the planet, at least this time of the year, but Santa Claus took a few minutes on the evening of Dec. 15 to explain why he and an enthusiastic group of carolers were in downtown Hollister.

Santa, perhaps better known in San Benito County as Ohana Shave Ice owner and Supervisor-elect Peter Hernandez, greeted youngsters and grownups—some sporting sweaters with blinking Christmas lights—in front of Veterans Memorial Building to begin a new tradition in town.

Santa, that is, Hernandez, explained that business owners invited residents to come downtown to celebrate as a community.

“The businesses wanted to make coming downtown fun,” Hernandez said. “We wanted to encourage people and enjoy the Christmas spirit in the hopes it would create an awesome vibe where people would want to do this more often.”

A number of business owners discussed several ways to promote downtown and came up with an old-fashioned Christmas caroling event, Hernandez said. The group let people know about the event through Facebook and asked friends to notify their families and acquaintances.

“We just wanted to share the excitement of Christmas spirit with kids, and that’s why I’m out here,” Hernandez said from behind his white beard.

As Santa, the local business owner asked the crowd if anyone knew where he came from. A tiny voice shouted: “The North Pole.”

“That’s right,” Santa answered, and then explained that local businesses invited him to come in order to take part in the first downtown caroling celebration.

As Alyssa Williams of Salon 218 handed out song books, people downtown joined in singing two Christmas tunes before the entire group headed up San Benito Street, stopping in front of various storefronts to bring cheer to evening shoppers and store employees.

Carolers finished their evening in front of the Veterans Memorial Building for the lighting of the Christmas tree.


John Chadwell worked as a feature, news and investigative reporter for BenitoLink on a freelance basis for seven years, leaving the role in Sept. 2023. Chadwell first entered the U.S. Navy right out of...