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Christmas in the Park introduces Rusty Weekes as its new executive director
Christmas in the Park introduced Rusty Weekes as its new executive director last weekend, and it’s worth noting he does bear a passing resemblance to a clean-shaven Santa Claus.
He arrives, however, not from the North Pole but from Santa Clara University, where he was an associate athletic director and executive director of the Bronco Bench Foundation, helping raise more than $30 million in 11 years. In other words, the fundraising force is strong with this one, which should be very good news for San Jose’s beloved holiday display.
Stacey Holden, chair of Christmas in the Park’s board, invited Weekes to meet the nonprofit’s supporters at the annual Christmas in July fundraiser at History Park on Saturday. Weekes had no problem pumping up the crowd, drawing on his years as a football coach for Santa Clara University in the 1970s. He recalled handing a football to a young boy after one game and learning years later that the boy — then a teenager — had never forgotten the moment and still had the ball.
“As I prepared to take this role, it was staggering for me to realize we’re in the business of creating moments,” said Weekes, who said he stayed up into the wee hours of the night coming up with ideas after he was offered the job. “We don’t know that someone is going to propose at Christmas in the Park, or there’s going to be some family that can’t do anything else and this is their Christmas. That’s the ‘why’ of this.”
Weekes’ predecessor, Jason Minsky, was also at the event and was recognized for his decade in the role. Bert George of Joseph George Fine Wines also was honored for his longtime service to the organization, which on Saturday included — as it often does for many nonprofits — providing wine and other drinks for the festive crowd.
In the coming months, we’ll see what Weekes cooks up for Christmas in the Park — both for the traditional downtown event at Plaza de Cesar Chavez and the newer drive-thru show at Lake Cunningham Park. Keep an eye on www.christmasinthepark.com for details.