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Hospitality Night brings the holiday spirit back to Laguna Beach

Surf instructor Goff Stepien wears a super elf costume as he entertains guests during Hospitality Night in Laguna Beach.
Surf instructor Goff Stepien wears a super elf costume as he entertains guests during Hospitality Night in downtown Laguna Beach on Friday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)
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The holiday spirit took over downtown Laguna Beach Friday, as the coastal town renewed a resident favorite with the return of Hospitality Night.

From the sounds of the many musical acts performing to the sights of the children laughing and playing, the event provided an enjoyable atmosphere for its attendees.

As has been tradition, it began with the arrival of Santa Claus and the tree-lighting ceremony in the Peppertree Lot.

Sande St. John, right, gets kids together for a photo with Santa, during Hospitality Night in downtown Laguna Beach.
Sande St. John, right, gets kids together for a photo with Santa, during Hospitality Night in downtown Laguna Beach on Friday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Richard Olds, 79, of Anaheim, said he has played the part of Jolly Old St. Nicholas for Hospitality Night several times since 2016. In a manner befitting of a beach town, the man donning the red coat with the filled-out white beard made his grand entrance aboard a lifeguard jeep, helmed by Marine Safety Capt. Kai Bond.

“It’s a lot of fun,” Olds said after an evening of listening in on the wishes of those who made Santa’s nice list. “I just like the kids. … It’s just fun to have them around.”

In addition to interacting with Santa, children had the chance to enjoy a train ride in the downtown area. Some kids even climbed into Laguna Beach trolley transit system vehicles, decorated with Christmas lights that provided another photo opportunity for parents.

Members of the band Moonshine perform at Hobie Surf Shop during Hospitality Night in downtown Laguna Beach on Friday.
Travis Muniz, Celena Marie, Justin Drucker, and Dylan DelPizzo-Howell of the band Moonshine perform at Hobie Surf Shop during Hospitality Night in downtown Laguna Beach on Friday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

The lighted vehicles proved to be a festive way of blocking off intersections leading into upper Forest Avenue to oncoming traffic.

Restaurants and storefronts remained open well after dark, and vendors also had a chance to meet community members while operating outside booths.

“Everybody was really happy,” Erin Slattery, chief executive of the Laguna Beach Chamber of Commerce, said. “We had several of our member vendors there, and they did good business. We had a group of autistic adults that were selling their kitchen aprons, and they were worried that they would not have enough stock for their event the next day.”

Resident Cathy Conroy tries to pick between two lifeguard tower Christmas ornaments during Hospitality Night on Friday.
Resident Cathy Conroy tries to pick between two lifeguard tower Christmas ornaments at Tuvalu furniture store during Hospitality Night in downtown Laguna Beach on Friday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Slattery said the group selling the aprons was called Zuggy. On its website, Zuggy promises that the proceeds from its sales help employee young adults with special needs.

Light rainfall up and down the Orange County coastline Friday threatened to put a damper on the festivities, but Slattery was pleased to see the weather cooperate during the evening.

A machine producing artificial snow in the Peppertree Lot, combined with the caroling and instrumentals from the Laguna Community Concert and Jazz Band, provided a far more welcoming experience.

Celena Marie and Dylan DelPizzo-Howell of the band Moonshine perform at Hobie Surf Shop during Hospitality Night.
Celena Marie and Dylan DelPizzo-Howell of the band Moonshine perform at Hobie Surf Shop during Hospitality Night in downtown Laguna Beach on Friday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

The main stage on the Promenade on Forest saw a performance from the Anneliese School, as well as live music from the Dupp Brothers and the Lightwaves Band.

Attendees went all out for the event. Eric Rankin and Jen Reynolds walked around in elf costumes.

“We all want to be in the Christmas spirit, and it’s more important now than ever,” Rankin said. “We’ve had a tough couple of years. I think people really want to come out and be together, celebrate together, show their love for each other, and that’s really what Christmas is all about all over the world is sharing love and kindness and compassion with each other.”

A couple in a classic covered golf cart arrive at Hospitality Night in downtown Laguna Beach on Friday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Adam Fritz, a glassblowing artist at the Sawdust Art Festival, wore a reindeer sweater, and he walked his dog with a leash that featured Christmas lights.

“She loves it,” Fritz said of his dog’s décor. “I put it on her, and her little tail starts wagging.”

Hospitality Night also marked the beginning of the voting period for the holiday window decorating contest. The voting public has the chance to determine the “People’s Choice” winning business, which will receive two weeks of advertising on Laguna Beach radio station KX FM 104.7.

Guests enjoy hot chocolate at Hobie Surf Shop during Hospitality Night in downtown Laguna Beach on Friday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

“With the window decorating contest, we look to see community involvement and the joy of the season with our residents and businesses,” Slattery added.

Voting for the contest continues through Dec. 14. To participate, visit thinklagunafirst.com.

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