OCEANSIDE — The 35-foot artificial Christmas tree and its whimsical Dr. Seuss-style decorations had already been purchased, but the holiday music, crafts and cookies that are an expected part of the annual city tree lighting celebration almost did not happen this year until donors stepped up and helped.
Thanks to the generous donations of NK Towing and Roadside Services, FACT Full Access Coordinated Transportation and Hass Team Realty, there were enough funds for a sound system, crafts and cookies at the annual city Christmas tree lighting Dec. 1.
“We needed an angel in Oceanside due to budget cuts,” Eileen Turk, division manager of Parks and Recreation, said.
A brief plea on FOX News for donations caught the attention of local businesses that donated from $250 to $1,000, which allowed the celebration to be held.
More than 1,000 people came out to watch the tree lighting, sit on Santa’s lap and eat cookies.
“It’s so nice to celebrate the smallest of things,” Turk said. “It’s a joyous small-town feeling in a big city. It brings you back to the time when you knew your neighbors.”
Singers warmed up the crowd until Santa Claus, Mayor Jim Wood and local dignitaries arrived by fire engine to light the tree.
In a nearby craft tent, Girl Scouts led children in stringing beaded necklaces.
For most children, the biggest treat was to see Santa. However, for 6-year-old Autumn Sells of Arizona, the visit with Santa was second to seeing her uncle who returned to Camp Pendleton on Dec. 2 after deployment to Afghanistan.
The tree lighting event brought families together to celebrate the season.
“I like seeing all the children with their parents,” Turk said. “People’s time is so limited to get together as a whole family.”
The city has lit a holiday tree in front of the downtown Regal Theater for the past five years.
For the last three years the event has been held on the first Thursday in December to coincide with the weekly MainStreet Sunset Market that stretches from Mission Avenue and Coast Highway 101 to Civic Center Drive and Cleveland Street.
“It’s a win, win for both organizations,” Turk said.
The Friends of Oceanside Parks is working to raise money for next year’s tree lighting event. For more information on the nonprofit group, call Eileen Turk at (760) 435-5529.