Photos and Story by Breeana Greenberg
Kicking off the holiday season, community members gathered at La Plaza Park for the city’s annual tree lighting ceremony on Saturday, Dec. 3.
The event featured “Santa’s Jolly Trolley,” photos with Santa, carolers, hot chocolate and cookies. At the tree lighting ceremony, the City of Dana Point also collected unwrapped toys for the Spark of Love Toy Drive.
“Santa’s Jolly Trolley,” which launched in 2020 to bring holiday cheer to local parks during the COVID-19 pandemic, stopped at Sunset Park, Dana Woods Park and Sea Canyon Park, with La Plaza Park as the trolley’s last stop of the evening.
“Santa’s elves” from the City of Dana Point’s Recreation Division collected letters to Santa at each of the Jolly Trolley stops.
Aboard the trolley, Santa arrived at La Plaza Park at 4:30 p.m. offering pre-packaged treats for kids who gathered to meet him.
Mayor Joe Muller, Mayor Pro Tem Mike Frost, along with his two kids, and Councilmember Jamey Federico joined Santa at the base of the Christmas tree to count down the tree lighting.
“We just want to wish you guys all a Merry Christmas, thanks for coming out,” Muller said. “This is really the kickoff to the Christmas season, the holiday season in Dana Point.”
The tree on Pacific Coast Highway lit up in red and white bulbs as Muller shouted, “light that tree.”
The La Plaza tree lighting has been part of Dana Point resident Lauren Gloekler’s annual holiday tradition for a couple of years now. Now that Gloekler’s daughter Aria goes to RH Dana Elementary, the family runs into parents and classmates at the event.
“It’s a nice way for us to connect with our community,” Gloekler said.
For Laguna Beach residents Will and Adriana Wright, Saturday night’s tree festivities was their first time attending the La Plaza tree lighting. Having two young kids encourages the Wrights to attend more “traditional” holiday events.
“We just love the community, love the family feel, it’s awesome,” Will Wright said. “We’re having a really good time.”
The Wright’s friend Dawn Beattie has been coming to the La Plaza tree lighting for the past six years.
“It’s fun, it’s good for the kids,” Beattie said. “Christmas is a wonderful time to be with friends and family and I’m just happy for tradition.”
Families will have another opportunity to take photos with Santa and enjoy carolers, hot chocolate and cookies at the Pines Park tree lighting on Monday evening, Dec. 5, from 4:30-5:30 p.m.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org