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Christmas in the Park becomes a new tradition for San Jose family

Christmas in the Park has been part of Genevieve Hismatullin’s holiday memories in San Jose for as long as she can remember. And when she returns to Plaza de Cesar Chavez for Christmas in the Park’s opening night and tree-lighting Friday, she won’t be just as one of thousands of San Jose families continuing a holiday tradition.

Kyla and Action Urgent Care, the AI-driven telemedicine app and in-person urgent care company she and her husband Garick Hismatullin founded, is the presenting sponsor. The story of how her family-run local business ended up in a spot normally held by big corporations like Southwest Airlines brings together both Genevieve Hismatullin’s memories and her family’s experience through COVID-19.

Genevieve Hismatullin, left, and Garick Hismatullin are the founders of Action Urgent Care, which is the presenting sponsor of Christmas in the Park for 2022. (Photo by the Wild Bloom Studio) 

“It was always just a really fun holiday tradition with my abuelito and my abuelita,” she said. “We would go with my parents and my cousins and everybody. We would see all the displays and have all the different treats and the hot chocolate.”

Genevieve and Garick began taking his son and their infant daughter there in 2018, and then the COVID-19 pandemic forced Christmas in the Park to make a major pivot to a drive-thru experience in 2020. Being in the medical field — Action Urgent Care has several locations in San Jose and surrounding Santa Clara County — made them as careful as could be when stay-at-home rules went into effect, even as it limited activities they could do with their children.

Christmas in the Park’s drive-thru event became their holiday escape. Genevieve Hismatullin guesses they probably bought about 30 tickets to go back again and again through the illuminated displays at History Park that year. “It was literally one of the only events I could take my daughter to that was COVID safe,” she said. “We would buy tickets for friends and staff and if we couldn’t make it, we would pass the tickets on.”

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Wanting to give back to the organization that provided their family with so much joy during that terrible year, Hismatullin reached out to Karin Cogbill, a friend who was on the board of Christmas in the Park’s board, to find out if there was more they could do. Last year, Action Urgent Care sponsored a display at Blinky’s Illuminated Holiday, which had moved to Lake Cunningham Park (and will open there again this Saturday).

Cindy Fulk, left, and Bobbi Atak decorate a tree for San Jose's District 9 Leadership Group at Christmas in the Park in San Jose on Monday, Nov. 21, 2022. (Sal Pizarro/Bay Area News Group)
Cindy Fulk, left, and Bobbi Atak decorate a tree for San Jose’s District 9 Leadership Group at Christmas in the Park in San Jose on Monday, Nov. 21, 2022. (Sal Pizarro/Bay Area News Group) 

But this year, they went a step further to become the presenting sponsor, in part as a way to instill a sense of philanthropy in their children. “I wanted to introduce them to aspects of volunteering and ways that we can give back,” she said. “We’re creating a new family tradition for them and for us.”

Christmas in the Park, which officially opens with the 6:30 p.m. tree lighting on Friday, is open to the public from noon to 10 p.m. every day through Jan. 1. This week, community groups, schools and companies were decorating the hundreds of trees that will join the folksy animatronic displays that have been a San Jose holiday tradition for decades.

Blinky’s Illuminated Holiday opens 5 p.m. Saturday at Lake Cunningham Park and runs through Jan. 1 (except Nov. 28-29 and Dec. 5-6). Tickets are $30 per car, and you can get more information on both events at www.christmasinthepark.com.

COMEDYSPORTZ’S NEW ARENA: COVID-19 was no laughing matter for ComedySportz San Jose’s improv players, as it had to cancel all its in-person shows and classes. But this Thanksgiving weekend will be a real celebration for the “laugh-letes” as they welcome back audiences to their new home, the San Jose Comedy Theater on Thornwood Drive near Oakridge Mall.

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