19th annual Malibu Christmas Woody Parade brings smiles on a sunny day

The 19th annual Woody Parade at Paradise Cove Beach Cafe on Sunday, Dec. 12. Photos by Devon Meyers/TMT

In the surf culture, “woodies” are known for carrying surfboards and bicycles during the summer. But once Christmas comes along, they’re decorated with lights, red ribbons, and tinsel.

For the 19th year, the annual Christmas Woody Parade continues to bring Christmas cheer to the Malibu community. Since 2001, the annual tradition has brought classic car enthusiasts of all generations together. 

On Sunday, Dec. 11, Malibu rose to a slight drizzle of rain, but the forecast cleared by the time the Woodies cruised down Pacific Coast Highway. The parade began at Paradise Cove Beach Cafe and concluded at Aviator Nation Dreamland across the Malibu Pier.

Woody Parade organizer and founder John Zambetti said the origin of the woody parade came after a television special called “Malibu Christmas.” 

“Long story short, we decided to do an hour TV special about Christmas in Malibu, and as years went by, we thought about what it was like Christmas time in the desert,” Zambetti said. “And over the years, we’ve had different sponsors, but we’re happy that [Aviator Nation] Dreamland has sponsored us this year which is great and Paradise Cove took care of parking at the beginning of the parade.” 

Zambetti said the Woody Parade was still going strong despite the pandemic, with drive-thru events being encouraged.

“That was especially great because so many people had to cancel events they would normally have; this is an outdoor thing, it’s free, and people can see it,” Zambetti said. 

Zambetti said woodies are very specific to California. 

“Its part of our identity in Southern California,” Zambetti said. “It’s part of the surf culture, keeping that alive, and the positive end of the surf culture is bringing people together during Christmas time.”

Zambetti said these car parades receive a “thumbs up” and waves from woody enthusiasts, as opposed to those driving in sports cars.

“Everybody’s inclusive of everyone in the surf culture; everybody loves it, it’s part of the nice thing about living in Southern California,” Zambetti said. 

For many years the woody parade has been at the Malibu Country Mart, and this was the first year it was held at Aviator Nation.

“We’re hoping it becomes a regular thing,” Zambetti said. 

Aviator Nation Dreamland welcomed participants to this year’s Wood Parade. Photo by Samantha Bravo/TMT.

Malibu Arts Commission Vice Chair Fireball Tim Lawrence has been a part of the Woody Parade for 10 years and helps coordinate the parade.

“My job has always been a blocker, so I drive a regular car and block traffic, so the woodies don’t separate,” Lawrence said. “When people are driving around, and they’re lost in their heads about holiday anxiety, they stop and they look at the Woodies, and they have a smile on their face and I think that every town can benefit from having that kind of experience.”

Lawrence joked that there weren’t many woodies this year due to concerns about them warping.

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The 19th annual Woody Parade at Paradise Cove Beach Cafe on Sunday, Dec. 12. Photos by Devon Meyers/TMT

“We didn’t have as many as normal because people were afraid of the rain,” he said. “Everyone just has a good time, it’s a very Christmas-y, very spirit-y thing to do, it brings people together and I think going to a show was one thing, but driving through town, everyone sees it.”

Lawrence said during the parade, they drive through to see celebrities’ homes, such as Mel Gibson’s and Dick Van Dyke’s, and said lot of times they’re out checking out the cars and waving.

As for car shows in general, Lawrence said there are two types of shows.

“There is a show for people who want to show off their rides and who are proud of them, but it’s less about the cars and more about it as an investment,” Lawrence said. “This kind of show is people that love cars and the enthusiasm and the connectivity among everyone, but the Malibu Christmas Woody Parade is an institution — it’s something that’s been going on so long now that people don’t know when it started.”

Lawrence said with any show, safety is important.

“The show I had went on for 10 years we’ve never had a single problem, not one, and I have friends who run successful shows, and it’s a matter of being aware of that,” Lawrence said. “You have to be aware and remind them to drive safely, everyone is just trying to have a good time, it pulls people together, and it binds the community.”

Attendees enjoyed music, food, and refreshments after the parade concluded at Aviator Nation.