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By Breeana Greenberg

Following last year’s pause on in-person activities amid the public health crisis, the City of Dana Point is looking to bring back holiday traditions with its annual La Plaza Tree Lighting Ceremony on Saturday, Dec. 4.

In addition to the tree lighting event, the city’s recreation division this year will also include its newest popular festivity, “Santa’s Jolly Trolley,” which was launched last year to adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’re really proud of and happy for the work that the recreation division did to adapt last year,” Mayor Jamey Federico said. “We learned that some of the things we did last year were so popular that we’re going to keep them.”

Since the city did not hold an in-person tree lighting last year, it decided to bring holiday cheer across Dana Point through the inaugural Jolly Trolley. Rather than have residents gather at La Plaza Park for the annual ceremony, “Santa and his elves” visited a number of parks across Dana Point aboard the trolley.

The Jolly Trolley was so popular, the city is bringing it back for 2021. During the trolley stops, kids up to 12 years of age may receive pre-packaged treats. There will be carolers, hot chocolate and cookies at the tree lighting ceremony—the trolley’s final stop of the evening.

“Santa’s elves” from the City of Dana Point’s Recreation Division will be collecting letters to Santa at Jolly Trolley stops. Those wishing to receive a letter back from Santa should include a mailing address on the letter.

At the tree lighting ceremony, the City of Dana Point will also be collecting unwrapped toys for the Spark of Love Toy Drive.

“Holiday lights are already on, and the city looks great this time of year,” Federico said of the festive décor around town. “It really is a fun kickoff to the holiday season, to light the holiday trees.”

Santa’s Jolly Trolley will stop at Sunset Park, 34345 Calle Naranja, from 1:30-2 p.m.; Dana Woods Park, 24900 Dana Woods, from 2:30-3 p.m.; Sea Canyon Park, 33093 Santiago Drive, from 3:30-4 p.m.; and, lastly, at La Plaza Park, 34111 La Plaza St., from 4:30-5:30 p.m.

The Tree Lighting will be held promptly at 5:15 p.m.

Also, this weekend, the Pet Project Foundation will be hosting the Santa Paws event in the Dana Point Harbor from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

The event will be an opportunity for residents to have their pets’ picture taken with Santa. Photos cost $15; additional photos can be purchased for $10. All proceeds go toward homeless animals at the San Clemente/Dana Point Animal Shelter.

The city will also be holding another tree lighting event at Pines Park in Capistrano Beach from 4:30-5:30 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 6.

Breeana Greenberg is the city reporter for the Dana Point Times. She graduated from Chapman University with a bachelor of arts degree in English. Before joining Picket Fence Media, she worked as a freelance reporter with the Laguna Beach Independent. Breeana can be reached by email at

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