In an extraordinary shift from the tradition of a surprise announcement, the Downtown Organization of Santa Barbara is announcing its annual Citizen of the Year award recipient in advance of its Annual Meeting and Awards Breakfast, scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 26.

Palminteri

John Palminteri

“Given his true nature as a newshound and promoter, nothing else would do for this year’s Citizen of the Year, John Palminteri,” DSB Executive Director Maggie Campbell said. “Simply put, John Palminteri is ubiquitous in downtown Santa Barbara. After all he’s done for our downtown members, he is a natural — and fantastic — choice.”

Downtown Santa Barbara is honoring Palminteri’s passion in promoting downtown as a center for the arts, culture, entertainment and commerce, as well as his enduring commitment to supporting DSB’s vital programs, collaborative promotions and ongoing success. He has been a huge supporter of business — small, large, new, unique — since arriving in Santa Barbara in 1981.

With his festive red suit coat, his nearly glow-in-the-dark grin and that bristling signature mustache, Palminteri is just as much a beloved and familiar part of the Downtown Santa Barbara Holiday Parade as, well, that other star of the show, Santa Claus. He has also served as the master of ceremonies for the Downtown Art & Wine Tour each year.

“I knew Borders had become a part of the community when John included our mini concert by The Doors’ Ray Manzarek in his list of one of the best concerts of the year,” said Kate Schwab, former general manager of Borders Books and now marketing director of DSB. “It was like being anointed by the Pope!”

From fires to fundraisers, parades to politics, car shows to cascarones, “The Palm” has covered it all for DSB. Watching Palminteri work a story or act as “Man on State Street” is nothing less than inspiring. He’ll show up on KEYT or one of several local radio stations, and on Facebook, his is a “destination page” — especially for Santa Barbarans who have moved away from home. In fact, the Downtown Christmas Tree sponsor credits his Facebook page with helping save the Christmas tree tradition.

“I had no idea my hometown tree was in jeopardy until I saw John’s post, and then we jumped on it,” said Irene Rhodes of Consumer Fire Products Inc. “How often do you get an opportunity to give an entire town a Christmas tree?”

Downtown Santa Barbara will present newsman extraordinaire Palminteri with the 2014 Citizen of the Year Award at its annual Awards Breakfast at 8 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 26 at historic El Paseo Restaurant, 800 block of State Street. This event is expected to sell out. Ticket sales close on Feb. 20. For tickets, call Cassidy at 805.962.2098 x804, or click here to purchase online.

— Kate Schwab is the marketing director for Downtown Santa Barbara.