Cruisin’ Malibu for Christmas

Malibu local Gerard Capello drives though Serra Retreat on his way to the Malibu Village.

Last Sunday, woodie enthusiasts from far and wide came to Malibu to celebrate Christmas in one of the most festive — and unique — holiday traditions in town: The Malibu Christmas Woodie Parade.

The event, now in its 13th year, is a funky mash-up of classic car show, traditional Christmas parade and outdoor party, with nearly two dozen woodie owners participating.

Woodies, which were popular in the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s, are a favorite piece of Americana and are closely associated with early surfing culture in 

California. Many of those who attended the festivities Sunday, Dec. 11, said owning a woodie was a childhood dream come true.

Dougger Anderson, a Santa Monica resident, said he’s been taking his car to the parade for 10 years and has a great time there each December.

His ’46 Ford — “Built the same year as me — it’s not that old!” — was decorated inside and out with a wreath on the grill and lots of Santa Claus figurines of all sizes in the back seat.

“If you drive a woodie wagon, you’ll get more smiles per gallon than you ever would imagine,” Anderson quipped with a smile himself.

When asked what drew him to the car, he said it was something he’d wanted since his teenage years.

“Back in the day, in the 1960s when I was a teenager learning to surf, woodie wagons were very inexpensive,” Anderson recalled, saying he remembers older surfers driving to the beach with boards in the back of their wagons. “The image that the woodie projects — surfing, Coppertone… 10 years ago I was able to fulfill my dream of having one.”

Anderson said all credit for the event goes to organizer and founder John Zambetti, who orchestrates the event and provides hats and ornaments for participants, organizes the music and makes sure everyone is having a good time.

Zambetti was busy on Sunday spending time with visitors, making the event run smoothly and enjoying the Christmas tradition, but last year he spoke with Malibu Times Multimedia Director Julie Ellerton about owning a woodie.

“They’re not intimidating like some other classic cars or some expensive sports cars,” Zambetti explained in the 2015 interview. “There’s something familiar, welcoming and inclusive about them. I feel the same way about Malibu, so instead of having a Macy’s-type Christmas parade with floats and celebrities, why not have a Christmas woodie parade?”

His sentiment was shared by participant Scott Ziegert of Ventura, who said he’s enjoyed going to the parade with his granddaughters for the last two years and plans to attend again in the future.

When asked what makes the Malibu Christmas Woodie Parade unique compared to other woodie events he’s attended since purchasing his 1949 Ford, Ziegert said it was the atmosphere. 

“Holiday festivities,” Ziegert said. “No judging — nobody has to be better than anyone else.”

Zambetti said woodies have an “inclusive feeling about them,” and that drivers “always make new friends wherever we cruise.”

Anderson remembered one year that friend was Malibu local Kelsey Grammer, who got stuck driving through Serra Retreat as the parade passed.

“One year, Kelsey Grammer got out of his car, stuck [in traffic], shouting out kudos to all of us,” Anderson recalled. “He was so excited.”

This year’s parade wound from Paradise Cove through Serra Retreat before ending in a celebration at the Malibu Village Shopping Center. Zambetti thanked the Malibu Village for their support.