SOUTH TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Santa smiled, the grill sizzled, and hundreds in South Tucson celebrated Christmas as a community.
This Christmas Eve marks 10 years that Los Vatos Motorcycle Club has rallied volunteers to enjoy Christmas in the Barrio on South 6th Avenue.
It was the first time for families like the Islava’s. Lined up to meet Santa, Lorenzo Islava didn’t know there would be gifts.
“I thought it was going to be for food...so yeah, a good surprise,” he said.
His father, Mario, said he’s lived nearby for three years and finally decided to see this annual celebration himself. Like father, like son, he was not disappointed.
“It’s just bringing everybody together, the way Christmas should be,” said Islava.
Ramon Ayala stopped by with his two young sons. He has a few presents tucked under the tree for them tomorrow, but parents always want to do more for their children.
"You want to pile that tree as high as you can with presents but sometimes it’s hard,” he said. "Stuff like this, you know, it helps out some of the parents also.”
Families, individuals, all are welcome at Christmas in the Barrio. Organizer Victor Salazar estimated they served up 500 hot meals and passed out close to 750 presents. Raised in South Tucson, he’s committed to keeping this tradition in his community.
“We’ll never get too big for South Tucson,” said Salazar “There’s others that have grown and gone and they’re doing wonderful things all over. No matter what, we will always stay here in South Tucson. These are the children we want to help.”
Organizing the Christmas celebration is a year round effort, so Salazar and his team have already started planning toy drives and fundraisers for next year.