Zip code day showed the true spirit of Claremont’s residents and businesses

Thousands gathered across the city of Claremont Saturday to commemorate an occasion the city won’t see come around for another thousand years: 91711.

The city’s “zip code day”, sponsored by Chamber of Commerce and the Village Marketing Group, presented locals with a chance to experience all things Claremont, from historical exhibits to art displays, family activities and free samplings of the city’s unique mom and pops.

“In Claremont we’ll take any excuse to throw a party,” said Sonja Stump, the 91711 committee chairperson. “Whether it’s our Fourth of July celebration or the Holiday Promenade, we just love our events and love celebrating our community.”

Claremonters did just that, pitching in to make dozens of minute details come together in a 24-hour snapshot of the city. Locals even went so far as to create a theme song. The Village Pipers took their place in front of City Hall to play the Zip Code Boogie, written by the group specifically for the kitchy holiday.

Several stores throughout the Village designed 91711 themed “zippy treats” for local consumers. Pizza N’ Such Manager Laura Verbal created a family special for $19.07 while diners at The Press Restaurant sipped on Navel Orange Drop Martinis, reminiscent of the city’s citrus grove origins. Locals Phil and Gloria Holcomb couldn’t resist indulging in a serving of Bert & Rocky’s Citrus Sunshine Ice Cream despite late morning fog.

“It’s perfect; they should sell this stuff all year on all the street corners!” Ms. Holcomb laughed.

Even the local post office got in on the fun. Postmaster Ken Jackson sat in front of the postal headquarters stamping envelopes and packages with a commemorative Claremont postmark, which featured a cartoon man dubbed “Mr. Zip.” Kristin Frost, a student from Claremont Graduate University, got in line early to get the special postmark stamped on letters to her family in Seattle.

“I have never heard of anything like this,” Ms. Frost said of zip code day. “I just thought my family would get such a kick out of it.”

Claremont’s 91711 celebration was inspired by the Beverly Hills 90210 zip code celebration held last year. Attendees paid $100 to partake in the extravagant city-wide party that featured celebrity guests like Grammy nominee Natasha Bedingfield and Chef Wolfgang Puck.

Saturday’s celebration stuck more closely to the “Claremont way,” featuring free admission to various family-friendly events put on by business people and involved citizens throughout town.

“It was a way for us to promote a community that has such a vibrant, active population,” said Joan Bunte, event organizer and owner of Stamp Your Heart Out in the Village.

Ms. Stump, along with help from Ms. Bunte, set to making Claremont’s very own zip code celebration despite having little to no budget to put on the event. The pair took to the streets passing out flyers across town, hoping to garner support for their plans. After about 20 hours walking up and down the streets of Claremont advertising, Ms. Stump credits local business owners for stepping up and making the planning process relatively simple.

“Everyone just picked up their little area of town, brought ideas to the table, and ran with them,” Ms. Stump said.

More than 80 businesses got on board with the project, offering meal deals, special treats or spearheading larger zip-code inspired projects. Claremont artist Anne Seltzer rallied her fellow artists and organized a series of studio open houses, offering families the chance to stop by artists’ homes to get an up-close-and-personal look at their work, something Ms. Seltzer feels is integral to the city and its residents.

“There is such a rich history of art here in Claremont,” Ms. Seltzer said. “By opening up our studios we are giving people a chance to come to understand that art on a more personal level.”

There were plenty of activities for the kids, from the Packing House’s art festival to faux ice skating, Diana Miller of Colors and Terri Riojas of Rio de Ojas, had their eyes set on a gathering that would be fun for adults to enjoy as well.

“I’m a mom and grandma, but I’m done with events just for little kids,” Ms. Riojas said. “Just on the spot I said ‘Let’s have a Love-In!’”

Reminiscent of her hippy days spent in the streets of Claremont, the Love-In love fest featured tie dyed products, art demonstrations, among others. Face painting and henna tattoos were a hit with both the older and younger generations.

“I want to start a new trend at school,” said Kenna Borges, 12, proudly displaying the freshly-painted henna designs on her palms.

Though the Village was swarmed with its own 91711 festivities, businesses along Foothill Boulevard donned their own share of zip code pride. Locals gathered for grub at the Sprout’s Center barbeque, while others flocked over to the Old School House to check out what business owners are calling a new revitalization of an old favorite in Claremont.

“We have so many businesses coming into the area now and we want to showcase that,” said Mick Bollinger, general manager/vice president of the Candlelight Pavilion. “[The Candlelight] was a big dream for my dad. It’s been here 26 years, and the property itself has been here over 100. It’s kind of an emotional thing for us. We have seen [the center] fall apart, watched the hotel decline and now seen it all revitalized. It just means a lot to us.”

The courtyard of the Old School House played stage for numerous musical acts, including singing and dancing numbers from the budding stars of the Carly Moultrie Academy, which is in the process of moving into its new location within the center. Claremont High School student Maddie Rohde, 15, who has been dancing with the academy since the age of 3, is thrilled to have the luxury of walking to dance class after school.

“It’s so convenient, and I love that I can just walk right over to Trader Joe’s for something to eat in between classes,” Maddie said.

Her mother Sarah is equally as happy to have so many shopping opportunities so conveniently close to her daughter’s studio.

“There is so much to do in this shopping center. I don’t have to just sit in the car and twiddle my thumbs!” Ms. Rohde joked.

And the bustling courtyard reflected Ms. Rohde’s statements. Eager business owners with free cookies and giveaways greeted guests and offered a potpourri of services, from dog agility training provided by new addition Zoom Room to classic favorites like the Double Tree and Crimson Cottage.

“This place has a wonderful mix of the old and new,” said Maria Anguiano, owner of Sweet Treats. “It used to be so plain, but has really become a beautifully decorated shopping center that everyone in Claremont can enjoy.”

For Ms. Rohde, who is also the owner of the Claremont Heights Postal Center, zip code day has helped to remind business owners of the close knit ties they have with the townspeople here in Claremont.

“The people here, my customers…become like family,” Ms. Rohde said. “I may live in Rancho, but Claremont is my home.”

Despite the overwhelming amount of activities sprawled out in all directions of the city, the evening’s community photo played a fitting part in displaying that sense of Claremont comradery. Hundreds of Claremont residents forgot about any sort of personal boundary as they overwhelmed the grass area in front of the Depot, linking arms in a unique Claremont family photo. The mere sight of it all brought tears to Ms. Stump’s face, a manifestation of all her hard work in bringing zip code day to life.

“The day was extraordinary…it has exceeded my expectations,” Ms. Stump said amid tears. “I really get a lot of satisfaction in seeing people enjoy themselves, and enjoying being together as a community celebrating Claremont.”

—Beth Hartnett


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