Santa Clara has a long-honored tradition of lighting a holiday tree on the first Friday in December. But because the Super Bowl will be in Santa Clara in 2016, the city decided to step the event up quite a few notches. Normally held at City Hall, Central Park was the new location. Along with the new location, the event also featured a new name – Super Community Countdown to Kickoff.
The night’s activities started at the main stage with a performance by the De’ja’ Vu Jazz Band, and the annual appearance from Santa. The focus then shifted to the Santa Clara Ice – the city’s new Ice Rink – for performances of “A Peanuts Holiday” by the Santa Rosa Figure Skating Club. The ice barely had a chance to cool off before U.S. Olympic Gold Medalist, Brian Boitano, took to the ice to perform “Silent Night.”
After Boitano’s performance, attention shifted back to the main stage for performances by the Parks and Recreation Dancers, followed by the NFL Super Bowl 50 Host Committee Representative and a performance by the Gold Rush. After the shows, Mayor Jamie Matthews and Council members Teresa O’Neill, Lisa Gillmor and Debi Davis presided over the Black and Gold Tree Lighting. But the evening was hardly over. Silicon Valley Power sponsored a fireworks display, followed by a set from Hotel California – A Salute to the Eagles. For those who wanted to slip and slide to the music, the ice rink had three sessions of a Community Free Skate.
Early estimates put the possible attendance at close to 6,000 people. Central Park was transformed into a small village that somehow managed to fit everyone in without giving anyone the feeling of being overcrowded. Security was tight in the wake of the shootings in San Bernadino, but Debbie Sanders of Santa Clara said, “Just about the right number of security personnel. About what I’d expect at an event like this.”
Along with the music, concerts and skating, food was for sale and several community organizations were in attendance too, such as the Miss Santa Clara Auxiliary. The city is even selling t-shirts, sweatshirts and coffee cups to celebrate Countdown to Kickoff Community Pride. And in keeping with the theme of “City of Santa Clara – The Center of What’s Possible,” every child that sat on Santa’s lap left with a Teddy Bear wearing a t-shirt declaring that slogan.
The event was a rousing success with many people asking if the city would make this year’s event into a new tradition. It’s too early to say if that will happen, but the efforts put in by all of the city staff and police department to make this year’s event “Super” seemed to be right on the mark. Even the weather cooperated with a comfortable temperature. The only downside several people mentioned was the lack of parking. “This is our first time going to the tree lighting. We had to walk a few blocks, but it was worth it,” declared 10-year old Kevin Jones of Sunnyvale.