Sundar Shadi Holiday Display calls for volunteers

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Sundar Shadi Holiday Display calls for volunteers
Photos courtesy of the display's organizers.

By Kathy Chouteau

When the Sundar Shadi Holiday Display takes its place atop Moeser Lane hill in El Cerrito each December, it signals the heart of the holiday season is afoot in the East Bay. This year the display is set to return to its hillside spot Sat., Dec. 16 through Wed., Dec. 27.

But to make the magic happen, organizers need help. The first day of the display, Dec. 16, they’re calling for volunteers to help set up at 9 a.m., as well as on Dec. 27 at 9 a.m. when they’ll need assistance taking it down. No sign-up is required—volunteers can just show up. Learn more about volunteering here.

Lights and music will help set the mood each night at the display from 5-10 p.m., while volunteer shepherds—a.k.a. docents—will be on hand to welcome guests and answer questions, per organizers on Facebook.

The display is the brainchild of the late Sundar Shadi, who first displayed his paper mache animals and figures in an empty lot in 1949 and eventually relocated to the current hillside location on Moeser Lane. The beloved holiday display includes a number of Shadi’s original creations, and all combined, features an angel, three wise men, camels, sheep, other animals, buildings and a large star throughout the picturesque hillside overlooking San Francisco Bay.

The display has been a perennial community delight during the holiday season throughout the years, except for a pandemic pause during the crux of COVID-19.

Shadi passed away at the age of 101 in 2002 and originally hailed from Chak Shadi in Punjab, India, per The Mirror, The Richmond Museum Association’s newsletter.

The Sundar Shadi Holiday Display can be found at 7501 Moeser Lane, near Seaview Drive, in El Cerrito.