The rain forecast for Friday’s Hospitality Night gave Laguna Beach merrymakers an unexpected reprieve.
The clouds dissipated, and the streets were instead flooded with visitors for the holiday bash, which ran the length of Forest Avenue on Dec. 7 for the 51st year.
Folks crowded around city hall to witness the lighting of the historic pepper tree, which has stood in the spot since 1881. It was covered with more than 18,000 lights for Laguna’s own holiday tradition.
Special guest Santa Claus arrived with a police and fire escort. He led the crowd in the countdown to the tree’s lighting with a “ho-ho-ho" and a “three-two-one," which was followed by a cheer from the crowd as the twinkling white lights appeared.
After the tree was lit, the party shifted down the street where all kinds of holiday festivities were underway.
Live music was featured fare with performances by bands from Laguna schools as well as Christmas standards by the Community Concert Band and the Lagunatunes chorus.
A full stage was set up at the junction of Forest Avenue and Glenneyre Street, where bands played. Santa sat listening to the Christmas lists of children across the street.
The Chamber of Commerce and the Assistance League Assisteens set up Santa’s workshop this year to entertain kids while they waited for their turn to sit with the big guy.
The San Clemente Scots Pipe Band was on hand to give holiday tunes a Celtic twist, a crowd favorite.
As per tradition, the evening of festivities was capped off with a screening of Frank Capra’s classic Christmas tale, “It’s a Wonderful Life," at South Coast Cinemas.
"” Josh Aden