CARLSBAD — There’s nothing quite like a winter evening spent sipping on hot chocolate, decorating sugar cookies and spending time with family to kick off the Christmas season.
Fortunately for North County residents, the opportunity to do just that was right in their own neighborhood at the Leo Carrillo Ranch Historic Park, 6200 Flying Leo Carrillo Lane. The park grounds were turned into a winter wonderland for the annual Holiday at the Rancho event.
The festive evening was filled with live entertainment, craft making and an opportunity to snap a picture with the North Pole’s most famous resident — Santa Claus. The event was ideal for children, who could decorate cookies with as much frosting as they wanted and get their faces painted.
“I think it’s great — it’s wonderful,” said Rachel Bairley of Carlsbad as she snapped a picture of her three children in front of the holiday decorations for their Christmas card. “They’re excited to see Santa and the movie.”
Admission to the event included a screening of the holiday classic “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” Projected on the side of a whitewashed barn, families watched the movie as they snuggled up in blankets and snacked on fresh popcorn.
Live entertainers performed Christmas classics and childhood staples, like “Frosty the Snowman” and “Itsy Bitsy Spider,” that had the crowd singing along and dancing. The ranch’s lawn doubled as a dance floor and a playground for the little ones to burn off the sugar from the Christmas cookies.
“It’s not too crowded and there’s room to run around,” said Oceanside resident Nancy Bertoch. Her 2-year-old son Dex didn’t want to see Santa but was enjoying the opportunity to play on the lawn. “A 2-and-a-half year old isn’t the easiest to entertain!”
Even with so many activities offered around the ranch, much of the crowd came together for the tree lighting ceremony. Families watched on as Santa wished them a happy holiday and counted down to the highly anticipated moment.
However Santa must have been jet-lagged after the long ride from the North Pole, as the tree remained unlit after several failed attempts. Santa’s elves and event volunteers scurried around to sort out the technical difficulties before Santa gave the tree lighting one last try.
“OK, it better work this time!” joked Santa, before he started yet another countdown with the crowd.
Luckily, with Santa’s magic and a little encouragement from the crowd, the tree display finally lit up the night and the holiday season was in full swing.