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Santa Rosa brightens up for holidays

  • Brilee Day, 3, and her father Robert watch Santa Claus as he greets children during the Santa Rosa Christmas Tree lighting ceremony at Old Courthouse Square in Santa Rosa, Calif., on November 29, 2013. (Alvin Jornada / The Press Democrat)

Ten-year-old Alex Amador of Santa Rosa used his meeting with Santa on Friday evening to get a jump start on his career training.

"I asked Santa for an airplane with a remote," he said. "I have always wanted to be a pilot when I grow up."

Alex's mom, Irene Estilart, was nearly as excited as her son when a gaily lighted Santa Rosa firetruck rolled down Mendocino Avenue and deposited Father Christmas at Old Courthouse Square, where hundreds of children were waiting for a word.

Santa Rosa Christmas Tree Lighting

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"Santa, it was more special coming in his firetruck," she said. "It's perfect. It's amazing for the little ones. And for me, too. My heart — it's great."

The Friday night event marked the first year the annual tree-lighting ceremony on the square was headed up by local merchants. Sutter Care at Home had for years organized the event that prominently featured both a massive tree lighting as well as a candlelighting ceremony to remember those who have died or could not be near for the holiday.

The merchants made some changes to the lineup, lighting a tree on the corner of Third Street and Mendocino Avenue rather than the towering redwoods in the center of the square. Also added were beer and wine booths, food samples from downtown restaurants, two jump houses, craft tables and face painting.

A jazz band played throughout the evening.

"Our goal is in five years to have the whole square look like a holiday village," said Debra Anderson, a downtown business owner and one of the organizers of the event. "It was just a labor of love by so many people."

But the event was not without its hiccups.

While Anderson said 1,000 candles were distributed, some complained that there were too few for everyone in the crowd to have one. And the tree was lighted — replete with countdown — about 30 minutes before the previously announced time of 7 p.m.


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