Mrs. Claus lights way for Santa to come to Paso Robles
Biggest crowd yet gathers downtown for holiday tree lighting ceremony
At the 28th annual Downtown Holiday Lighting Ceremony on Friday, Mrs. Claus — played by Paso Robles Downtown Main Street Association volunteer Sandy Culver — flipped the switch to turn on the 40,000 lights wrapped around trees around throughout the park. As Mrs. Claus flipped the switch thousands of candles were lit by the nearly 4,000 attendees.
“It’s the biggest [ceremony] we’ve had,” Main Street Executive Director Norma Moye said. “It’s a great tradition.”
Moye said the holiday tradition begins with Elegant Evening in November when the downtown merchants throw open houses, which draws thousands. She said word gets to Mrs. Claus of the great time had in Paso Robles so she travels to the city to turn on the lights welcoming Santa Claus to the city. Next Friday, Dec. 5, Santa will come to town in the city’s annual Christmas Light Parade and will remain in town through Christmas Eve, attending the Vine Street Showcase on Saturday, Dec. 13 and the Teddy Bear Tea on Saturday, Dec. 20.
The festivities began at 5:30 p.m. with music, cookies from the Paso Robles Culinary Arts Academy, hot chocolate and picking up a candle and songbook. At 6 p.m. sharp, Kevin Will on KPRL counted down live on the radio, when the lights were turned on, the dark park was flooded with light and Christmas caroling began after brief comments.
“It’s nice to see so many familiar faces, it just grows and grows,” Master of Ceremonies Chad Stevens of KPRL said.
“I swear each year this event continues to get larger and larger, we have more and more visitors,” Paso Robles Mayor Duane Picanco added. “[Saturday] is Small Business Day. I invite you all to shop at our small businesses downtown. We wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy Hanukkah.”
Though it was the day after Thanksgiving, the weather was mild, jackets optional. Stevens said it was in contrast to last year’s event where people’s breath could be seen.
“It’s amazing to see how many people turn out each year,” Paso Robles Mayor-elect Steve Martin said. “We have a great 125-year past and an even more glorious future.”
The annual tree lighting ceremony also included the third annual Light up the Night benefitting the Cancer Support Community California Central Coast. Individuals, families, groups, businesses and schools may participate in buying a bulb to help shine the light on Paso Robles. Each tree has a plaque with the sponsor’s names on it. Cancer Support Community Board Member Scot Burns, who started Light up the Night, said that signs in each tree have a QR code that people can scan to see everyone who has donated lights for the tree.
“My goal is to have 100,000 lights on 40 trees,” Burns said.
Stevens, along with Lindsay Reed, led the caroling as Deborah Lagomarsino accompanied on keyboard. The current city council members, Martin, Picanco, John Hamon Jr., Fred Strong and Ed Steinbeck, along with their wives and the Snow King and Queen — played by Main Street volunteers Bill Reed and Millie Drum — helped lead the singing from the park’s gazebo.
“We were looking for something to do,” Los Osos resident Sandy Shelton said. “It far surpassed what I expecting.”
Moye said to put the day after Thanksgiving on the calendar for next year’s Downtown Holiday Lighting Ceremony. “We want to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, we’re lucky to live in Paso Robles,” Moye said.
For more information about the Cancer Support Community, go to www.twcccc.org.