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106th Annual Holiday Tree Lighting106th Annual Holiday Tree Lighting

It was beginning to feel a lot like winter at the City’s 106th Annual Holiday Tree Lighting. On the night of Dec. 2 it was a chilly 55 degrees in Santa Clara. Attendees bundled up in scarves and coats filled the Santa Clara Central Park–969 Kiely Blvd.

Families had plenty to do at this popular event. From food to live entertainment to informational booths, the park-turned-winter-wonderland had something for attendees of all ages. Families quickly filled the ice rink and the queue for jolly Santa Claus. Ice-skating was discounted to $5 for the evening and meeting Santa was free. Santa had his own security detail and tent for quick and efficient meet and greets. His elves handed out teddy bears–not too different from the teddy on the top of the Holiday Tree.

Miss California Jessa Carmack introduced all the entertainment. Performances included live music, complements of Buschser Middle School. The Buschser Déjà vu Jazz Band and the Buschser Band both performed. Santa Clara University Chorale serenaded the crowd with sophisticated holiday classics. The Parks and Recreation Dancers had multiple performances in festive costumes.

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A class of four-year-old ballerinas stole the show. The little ones wore reindeer antlers and danced to a Disney rendition of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. The performance included hugs, little plies and lots of “aws” from the audience.

Food stands served hot chocolate, cotton candy, teriyaki plates, nachos and mac & cheese while Armadillo Willy’s served up BBQ classics like pulled pork sandwiches. Buschser Middle School sold bags of kettle corn and Santa Clara Youth Commission sold pizza by the slice.

The Santa Clara Parks and Recreation Commissioners warmed adults up with local wines left over from the Art and Wine festival. The Parks and Rec department will add the proceeds from the wine booth to their donations for local non-profits, according to Parks and Rec commissioner Mike Walke.

It was Bin Hu and Markus’ first Santa Clara Holiday Tree Lighting–the duo didn’t want to give out their last names. They just moved to Santa Clara from Austin, TX. They watched the performances while enjoying kettle corn and wines from the booths.

“We had merlot, zinfandel and cab. We tried all three,” said Bin Hu. “We’re having a lot of fun.”

“It’s a great atmosphere,” added Markus. “It’s really nice.”

The City’s Vice Mayor Teresa O’Neill introduced Honorary Tree Lighter Jerry Marsalli–a Santa Clara Council Member. He was honored for “brightening the lives of those in need.”

“Jerry’s history of community support, along with his family, are well known for their service and volunteerism,” said O’Neill. “I encourage the entire community of Santa Clara, young and old, to emulate Jerry’s example of giving back more blessing upon others this year than each of us have received.”

Marsalli’s family accompanied him on the main stage, including his young grandchildren. One of his granddaughters was so excited to be up there. Her waves and smiles solicited giggles from the crowd.

“I want to wish everyone a very joyous, healthy and merry holiday season,” said Marsalli.

O’Neill was sure to tell the charming story of James Dixon, former Utilities Superintendent, and his one-year-old daughter Alice who started the teddy bear tree topper tradition in 1911. Marsalli received a symbolic teddy bear while on stage which he happily handed to his granddaughters.

O’Neill also led the countdown to the tree’s lighting. Charlie Brown’s “Linus And Lucy” by the Vince Guaraldi Trio filled the air as the tree’s lights flashed on. The traditional teddy bear up top the tree had its own spotlight.

Fireworks followed, complete with festive colors and a mix of holiday songs with the color-changing tree in the foreground.

The Peelers Band closed out the night with a medley of holiday tunes and dance hits. Their sparkling outfits caught the lights in almost a disco effect. Families danced and sang along until the end of the event.

The Central Park ice rink is open until Jan. 16. Read our previous story about the ice rink here: www.santaclaraweekly.com/2016/Issue-49/ice-skating-returns-to-central-park.html

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