The annual La Verne tree lighting ceremony has a long-standing tradition of capturing the spirit and camaraderie of the holiday season, and this year was no exception.
Between the caroling, a surprise appearance from Santa Claus and the tree lighting itself, La Verne City Hall was positively thriving with the holiday spirit.
“We come out here every year,” attendee Annette Harden said. “It’s practically an annual tradition for all of us. You get to see a lot of people that you haven’t gotten to see in a while.”
The evening started off with La Verne mayor Don Kendrick addressing the crowd, thanking his colleagues and the families that came out for the festivities.
“This is my seventh year being a part of the ceremony,” Kendrick said. “We really want to make sure that it’s a nice start to the holiday season for everyone who comes.”
Then it was finally time for the lighting to take place. Mayor pro-temp Robin Carder, had the honor of introducing her grandsons, Grant and Kyle Thomas, as the two who would flip the switch to turn the lights on the 25 foot-high Christmas tree that could be seen from down the street.
“They’ve been so excited about this since they woke up this morning,” Stephanie Thomas, the boys’ mother, said.
The Bonita High School Chamber Singers then began their performance of numerous carols. After several songs, conductor and instructor Todd Helm called for the help of those in attendance for a rendition of “Jingle Bells,” promising the arrival of a surprise guest if they could sing loud enough.
The entire crowd got into the song, singing the chorus of “Jingle Bells” as though they had been practicing for this moment their entire lives. Their efforts were eventually rewarded as the promised special guest was none other than Santa Claus himself.
His presence was something that many children in attendance had been clamoring for all night.
“A lot of these kids are so animated and excited, you can’t help but be excited for them as well,” Harden said.
“I’m really excited to meet Santa because I’ve been good all year,” attendee Sara Miles said. The 4-year-old could hardly contain her excitement at the prospect of meeting Santa.
“Last year I got to meet Santa (at the mall), and I got my puppy. So this year I hope that he gives me a (Barbie) Dream House.”
Many other children fervently waited in line to tell Santa what they wanted for Christmas. Parents took pictures of their children on Santa’s knee, while Santa discussed their gift requests.
“I feel like the biggest seller this year is going to be something with computers,” Santa said. “It always is these days. These kids are getting to be smarter than my elves.”
Santa appeared confident in his abilities to handle the influx of deliveries.
“I’ve been doing this for thousands of years. I’ll be fine for one more.”
This Santa seemed unsure of what he wanted for Christmas. After some thought he decided that he wanted everyone to have a job.
“My job is pretty secure, but it’d be nice for everyone to be that way,” Santa said.
Julian Burrell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.