Monday, May 21, 2018     Volume: 19, Issue: 11

Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on December 23rd, 2013, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 14, Issue 42 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 14, Issue 42

Hobnobbing with Helen


(From left to right) Jack and Kathy Boysen with Mike Cordero appreciated the ambience of the Ward-Sweet Open House held on Dec. 6.

The invitation, usually a cause for joy and gladness, was ominous: “This is the last one!” The end-of-November e-mail sounded out the message loud and clear.

“The last one” e-mail decreed that the very last-ever holiday wingding to be given by Rick Sweet and Nancy Jo Ward would take place on Dec. 6.

For the past 20 years, this sociable mister and missus have hosted a holiday open house on the first Friday of December. This year, they decided they’d pack it in.

For the dynamic duo, 20 years of dynamite decorating, baking, and entertaining was enough. Been there, done that—they would give it a rest.

The impending cancellation of this tradition aroused great consternation. It was darn near like “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.”

Concern and sadness spread throughout the area. Rick’s colleagues from Santa Maria City Hall (he’s director of utilities) and his cycling friends, her Hancock faculty and staff associates, and a hodgepodge of friends collected over time have all come to depend on Ward-Sweet for a semi-official launch of the Christmas season.

The open house has always been a Hancock faculty and staff treat; an evening of wine, food, conversation, dancing, and sitting around a fire in the immense back yard.

Everyone was saddened by this sudden abdication of holiday entertaining responsibilities.

Read on to find out “How the Grinch gave Christmas back.” Read on to find out how the situation was happily resolved. Hint: Mayor Alice Patino read an “official” proclamation.

Among those gathered for the last roundup were City Manager Rick Haydon, City Council member Bob Orach, City Council member Jack Boysen with wife Kathy, and city spokesman Mark Van Kamp. Fire Chief Dan Orr and wife Melinda, and city librarian Mary Housel were among the crowd of about 200 that traipsed in and out from 5 p.m. until midnight.

(From left to right) Rick Sweet, Mary Ellen Orach, and Rick Haydon chat in the Ward-Sweet kitchen during the open house on Dec. 6. Sweet is director of utilities for the city of Santa Maria. Haydon is city manager.

Hancock president Kevin Walthers and wife Shannon enjoyed socializing. Also from the Hancock community were Cheryl Weiss (with her great anecdotes about life in Hollywood and show biz) and Marna Lombardi.

Traveling up from Montecito were Dick and Jasminka Shaikewitz (Dick is chairman of the Central Coast Water Authority).

The spread of food was awesome. The host and hostess provided a ham and roast beef and an outstanding selection of fine wines and champagne. Guests brought wonderful dips with some zing and some tang, wraps, rolls, cookies, candy, veggies, sushi, and chips.

Midway through the evening, basking in the glow of candlelight and Christmas lights, Mayor Patino read a very clever and entertaining proclamation stating that Ward and Sweet were prohibited from their cease and desist plans for the open house. It was decreed that Ward and Sweet must give at least five years’ notice before abandoning their annual event.

Cheers went up from the crowd. Well, not really, but almost.

“We can’t stop!” Rick said with a wide grin.

“It was Nancy Jo’s idea to stop,” he offered.

“It was Rick’s idea to quit,” Nancy Jo countered.

We may never know the truth, but “The law’s the law,” uttered former City Council member Mike Cordero.

Real estate agent Bunny Maxim and Jody Venema rejoiced, as did Deb Costello, Beverly Peck, and Sierra Peltcher.

The household golden retriever, Bailey, was non-committal.

Who was it who said, “All’s well that ends well”?


If you want to hobnob with Helen, you may contact her at

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