Tree lighting brings holiday spirit

Posted Dec. 8, 2006
Rhiannon Mim

Leaving the reindeer at home, Santa Claus cruised down Third Street in a classic 1932 Ford Roadster at La Verne’s Holiday Open House Saturday. More than 80 classic cars lined Third and D streets and the Wilson Library parking lot for the annual event. A collection of unwrapped toys was also gathered as part of the Spark Of Love Toy Drive hosted by firefighters from across Southern California.

Christmas is a time for communities to come together and share in the spirit of giving and the city of La Verne knows how to do just that.

The annual tree lighting ceremony is always a big night for Mayor Jon Blickenstaff, his family, and the residents of La Verne.

With the lighting of the tree, a singing performance by the Bonita High School chamber singers and the special appearance by Mr. and Mrs. Claus there was something for everyone.

“This is my 25th as mayor,” Blickenstaff said. “It gets bigger every year. This year is the biggest and most enthusiastic.”

The night started with Blickenstaff welcoming all in attendance and introducing some of his colleagues from City Hall.

He then continued his speech by spreading the message that peace on Earth begins with peace in our own hearts and families, a message that was applauded by the families in attendance.

Toni Krone of the Camber of Commerce then addressed the crowd, stressing the importance of shopping at local stores and wishing everyone a wonderful holiday season.

Blickenstaff then started the countdown along with the crowd. Five, four, three, two, one. With the push of the button by Blickenstaff’s grandchildren Brooke and Bryce the tree was lit and cheers erupted from those in attendance.

Upon the lighting of the tree the chamber singers began their singing of a handful of Christmas songs including “Joy to the World,” “Deck the Halls” and “Jingle Bells.”

“This year we’ve done festivals at colleges and we had a concert this morning for a PTA meeting,” said Thomas Burns, junior Bonita chamber singer. “We’re going to continue to do things through December and spread the Christmas cheer.”

Speaking of Christmas cheer, jolly old St. Nick made his grand entrance, accompanied by his wife Mrs. Claus, right at the end of “Jingle Bells” to the delight of the children in the crowd.

Santa and Mrs. Claus stayed outside to hand out stuffed bears and candy canes to the children and ask what presents they wanted while the City Council meeting took place inside.

“It’s just been a wonderful time,” Blickenstaff said before retreating from the ceremony to the meeting.

“To have Mr. and Mrs. Claus out here in their old style costumes is a nice touch I think, and the chamber singers are just the best, they do a great job. It really makes it feel like Christmas,” he added.

The local Cub Scouts troop 413 performed the Pledge of Allegiance to start the council meeting before heading outside to talk with Santa.

“This is our second year here,” La Verne resident Keith McHugh said. “My favorite part was the Cub Scouts doing the pledge of allegiance, but I think [my son] Eric has something else to say.”

“My favorite part was Santa,” Eric said. “He gave me a bear and a candy cane and I told him I want a [Star Wars] Imperial Cruiser.”

All the parents in attendance thought it was great to be able to have their kids spend time with Santa.

“We’ve lived in La Verne for 20 years and this is our first time coming here,” resident Isabelle Gonzalez said. “We loved it.”

Her children Vanessa, 3, Travis, 5, and Dominique, 12, also enjoyed the tree lighting, singing and Santa.

“We’ve been showing up to this event for 14 or 15 years now,” Santa said. “We also do charities, Casa Colina and several churches, but we really enjoy appearing at the Foothill Family Center twice a year for Christmas and ‘Christmas in July.’ They have a great program there every year.”

As far as hot gifts children are asking for, Mr. and Mrs. Claus mentioned the boys are going more high-tech whereas the girls are staying traditional.

“The Nintendo Wii is a hot commodity,” the Clauses said. “For the girls, though, they always ask for dolls or a real live puppy.”

Kevin Zeni can be reached at

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