Hospitality Night spreads holiday cheer in Laguna Beach
Laguna Beach’s Hospitality Night, the community kickoff to the holidays, brought in the masses to the downtown area on Friday.
With Forest Avenue closed off to vehicular traffic, the children were free to laugh and play. Some hoped for a Santa sighting, while others were happy to make cherished memories with friends.
The sound of live musical performances could be heard out on the street, and within local businesses, as was the case with a guitar trio strumming away inside the Martin Roberts Gallery.
Usual participants like the Laguna Community Concert and Jazz Band put on a show, but holiday cheer is for all, and aspiring young vocalists from kindergarten and up performed for community members with some caroling of their own.
Lindsey Parker, an instructor in vocal music and musical theater, works with students from all four schools within the Laguna Beach Unified School District. When her students met the idea of caroling at Hospitality Night with unbridled enthusiasm, she told them to bring a couple friends.
“It was super fun,” Parker said. “I printed out a lyric sheet for the songs we were going to be singing. … There was actually a little bit more people than I was anticipating, so I had to AirDrop some music to people. As they started coming, I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is way more people than I expected.’”
Parker added that the district schools will be holding a combined chorus concert at 7 p.m. on Thursday in the Artists Theatre at Laguna Beach High. It will feature honors chorus students from El Morro and Top of the World elementary schools, as well as musical theater students from Thurston Middle School and the high school.
There will also be some special guests, as district administrators will be called upon to participate in the singing of “Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer.”
Santa arrived in style, cruising down Ocean Avenue in a Christmas light-covered Laguna Beach lifeguard jeep. His dedicated believers rushed to the front of the stage to get a closer look, as local radio personality Ed Steinfeld chatted him up about the journey from the North Pole.
Mayor Bob Whalen joined them to lead the community in its own unique tradition — the lighting of the Peppertree.
“Look at all the people here for Hospitality Night 2023,” Whalen exclaimed before thanking those involved with putting the event on.
The evening provided an occasion to slip into costume. A couple of seals promoted the work of the Pacific Marine Mammal Center. A Grinch was spotted in the vicinity of a gingerbread house in which Santa was meeting with children to listen to their Christmas wishes.
Hospitality Night, held annually on the first Friday in December, also helps businesses in the downtown area during what can be a slower time of the year in the beach community.
Candy Baron was flush with patrons looking to satisfy their sweet tooth.
“The best Hospitality Night was when we reopened after the pandemic, because obviously people are so excited to be out after the pandemic,” said Luz Ong, president of Candy Baron. “Every year, it’s really, really good. That’s the best day for us every year.”
Ong, who inherited the business from Ron Baron when he passed away, added that the transition of lower Forest Avenue into a pedestrian plaza has been a boost to business.
“People just love to walk around,” Ong said. “They see the store because it used to be street parking, where there’s a lot of cars and they won’t even notice your store. Now, people can just sit there ... They eat in restaurants, and then after, they go to our store, so it helps.”
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