Family-friendly activities, tree lighting occupy E Street Plaza
Downtown Davis transformed into a holiday wonderland on Nov. 29, hosting various community traditions and showcasing performances of community-based groups. The event encouraged residents and students alike to converge in downtown to celebrate the upcoming holiday season.
A historical and tradition-filled event, the Davis Holiday Celebration always takes place the Thursday after Thanksgiving and begins with the Candlelight Parade at the UC Davis Food Co-op, which co-sponsored the event this year.
In addition to the annual parade and tree lighting, the event featured appearances from Santa and Mrs. Claus, a showing of “How the Grinch stole Christmas” at the Varsity Theater, horse-drawn carriage rides, donations to “Toys for Tots” and ugly sweater and downtown window decorating contests.
“This is one of those events that much of it remains the same each year, and I think that people look forward to the traditions,” said Carrie Dyer, who works in the city manager’s office and appeared as Mrs. Claus for the fourth time. “Our goal every year is just to have a community celebration that people are excited to participate in. What you can see and expect is an incredible celebration of community.”
Many UC Davis and local community organizations participated in the parade, including the Aggie Marching Band-Uh! and Davis High School student groups.
“Every year does change just because the cast of characters does change and the world changes a little bit,” said Bob Bowen, the public relations manager for the City of Davis and an organizer of the event. “But we like to think that it’s a traditionally based community event that people can bring their kids and their grandkids to and feel good about being a part of it.”
The showstopper of the event was arguably the Christmas tree that city council members lit up. This year, the tree is about 35 feet tall, according to Bowen.
“We get thousands of people downtown and when you turn on the lights on the tree, this gasp goes up in the crowd,” Bowen said. “It’s kinda hard to explain unless you’re there. When you think about looking at a tree like that through the eyes of a two- or three-year-old looking up — it’s going to be something that they’ll never forget.”
Lily Jenkel, a fourth-year international relations major at UC Davis, is from Australia and observed the different ways two cultures celebrate Christmas.
“We have lunch outside because it’s summer and sometimes we’ll go for a walk down to the beach,” Jenkel said. “I think the American Christmas is more reflective of the typical Christmas just because it is colder weather so people are wearing sweaters and drinking hot chocolate, and it’s more cozy.”
Jenkel noted her excitement to experience an American Christmas in downtown Davis.
“I love looking at Christmas trees and the lights,” Jenkel said. “I’m always really happy when I’m in that atmosphere.”
While many of the attractions remain constant through the years, event organizers took extra caution to ensure the safety of participants in the past few years.
“Unfortunately, in the world we have people that have done some things at large outdoor events, and so we try and make sure to really close down streets so that they are secure,” Bowen said. “We’ve been working closely with the police department to have a safe event that families can feel secure at.”
Members of Alpha Phi Omega, a UC Davis co-ed service fraternity, teamed up with the City of Davis and the police to protect and direct event-goers.
“We’ll be helping at the parade,” said Kevin Jin, the service vice-president of the fraternity and a fourth-year biotechnology major. “We’re helping the police with the barricades, where we make sure to help people walk around the parade route and to keep the walkers be at the right lane and guide them through, beginning to end.”
Jin hopes that his fraternity can partake in more city events in the future and engage with the community.
“We saw this chance to reconnect the City of Davis and our fraternity, and hopefully we can help out at many more events,” Jin said. “We want to try to help out as best as we can and do what we can for the community of Davis.”
Overall, the event is not just a celebration of the holiday season but also a celebration of the Davis community.
“When you’re part of [a] community, whether it be the greater community including UC Davis, we think experiences are something that are authentic and are memorable,” Bowen said. “Davis isn’t as small as it used to be, but we’re trying to maintain that small town neighborliness –– that spark of community.”
Written by: Renee Hoh — firstname.lastname@example.org
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