On a cloudless Friday night in Costa Mesa, the powers that be at City Hall made it snow. The white stuff, sprinkling down onto throngs of gleeful children, was part of a festive evening that marked the opening of the 47th annual Snoopy House. Some 200 families, politicians and city staff visited the hay-covered City Hall lawn to enjoy the winter tradition.
Jim and Linda Jordan, as well as their helpers, started the "Peanuts"-themed display at their Eastside home 44 years ago, where it reigned as a popular tradition featuring Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Woodstock, Linus, Lucy and friends.
After the Jordans lost their Santa Ana Avenue home to foreclosure in 2011, however, fears arose that the beloved exhibit would be lost. After working out a deal with city CEO Tom Hatch that winter, City Hall became "Snoopy Hall," and the holiday fun was able to continue on and thrive within the much larger venue, and with the resources of city staff and volunteers.
This year, Snoopy House will run nightly through Christmas Day and will include fundraising booths from local organizations and live music.
"This is a big legacy in our city here," said Mayor Jim Righeimer. "We've watched family members through 47 years go through this with their kids as they get older and older and older. And then their kids bring their kids."
This year, Costa Mesa officials changed things up a bit, namely with the addition of the Orange County Model Engineers. The rideable-train enthusiasts brought a sliver of their Fairview Park setup to the City Hall lawn.
On Friday, it was already proving to be a highly popular destination for families, with the line for rides snaking around the white picket fence surrounding the tracks. Rides were stopped for a few minutes, however, to prepare for the arrival of two VIPs: Santa Claus and Snoopy.
The two rode the train as waving dignitaries of the evening before disembarking. Santa then took up residence in the little house set up for him, where the line for picture-taking was as long as the one for the train.
This was the third year that Huntington Beach resident Toby Lucas, 5, has gotten to see the Snoopy House. Standing alongside his big brother, Jason, 14, Toby was excited to ride the train and meet Santa.
Toby came prepared. He had his handwritten Christmas list ready for the North Pole's most famous resident. Among his wishes were an iPad, a "Star Wars" Lego Xbox game and a "rocket launcher toy."
When asked if there was a good chance that Santa was going to bring some of that this year, Toby's father, Eric, replied: "We'll see what happens."