“It’s so special to be here tonight; I used to go to Great America all the time during the summer with my brothers,” says Polina Edmunds, Olympic figure skater and Santa Clara native. “I’m a winter sports athlete and it’s so nice to have a festive ice rink here for people in Santa Clara to enjoy.”
Currently a freshman at Santa Clara University, Edmunds is the celebrity who lit the 70 ft. Christmas tree behind Great America’s Carousel Columbia on the Nov. 25 opening night of Great America’s WinterFest. In addition to expressing her delight over the ice rink at Snowflake Lake, which offers skate trainers for new skaters and skate rentals, Polina also likes the tree she lit and the rest of the decorations and lights in the theme park.
“This is our inaugural WinterFest event and it will be one of the most immersive holiday traditions in the Bay Area,” says Roger Ross, public relations manager of California’s Great America. “We’ve always looked at how we wanted to extend the seasons. We usually open in March and extend into the Halloween season. Looking forward, we decided that incorporating winter holiday traditions would be a natural extension of the year.”
The park’s entertainment team has worked on WinterFest for over a year and their hard work and attention to detail is evident. It snows in Hometown Square. At St. Nick’s Pics, Santa is ready to hear everyone’s wish lists. Four of Santa’s favorite reindeer are lounging at Reindeer Roundup. Shown in the Great America Theater is “It’s Christmas, Snoopy,” an ice show depicting Peanuts characters and figure skaters performing smooth dance moves and sophisticated stunts.
Those who enjoy working with their hands might enjoy drafting a letter to Santa at the North Pole Postmaster, decorating cookies with Mrs. Claus at Mrs. Claus’ Kitchen and designing greeting cards and ornaments at Sally’s Christmas Crafts, located inside at Planet Snoopy. Other seasonal features at Planet Snoopy include the Peanuts Winter Wonderland sing along show and Charlie Brown’s Christmas Tree Lot, where a winding path through pine scented trees ends with a meet and greet with Charlie Brown and Linus.
According to Ross, there are 7 million LED lights scattered throughout the park, ensuring that WinterFest sparkles with holiday cheer. Many of these lights are found at “photo opp” locations, including the Candy Cane Lane with its 20 ft. tall candy canes and life-sized gingerbread houses, a gazebo decorated with bright white lights to mimic icicles and of course, the Christmas tree. (The tree is also the performance site of the Cool Yule Christmas Cast, identified by the singers’ hip holiday sweaters.)
California’s Great America is located at 4701 Great America Pkwy. Visit www.cagreatamerica.com/winterfest for more information about activities, live shows, themed areas and dining options. Since WinterFest is open on select nights through Dec.30, visit www.cagreatamerica.com/hours-directions/winterfest to confirm operating dates and hours.