From the moment Santa Claus stepped out onto Park Avenue in Adams Square on Saturday, he had command of dozens of children and their parents.
They flanked him for quick snaps of their digital cameras before he settled down on his padded wicker bench, where one by one, youngsters took their turn posing for that seminal childhood picture.
Some were eager; others were less so. After 4-year-old David Tsarukyan and his cousin, Nicole, 3, were planted on the bench, the clock ticked on voicing their Christmas wishes. But as the moments passed, and cameras flashed, all they could muster were wide-eyed stares at the big man covered in white curly hair and red velvet.
“That’s OK, I read your mind,” Santa told the pair. “Off you go!”
David and Nicole later said they wanted an airplane and ice cream, respectively.
Ice cream was not an unusual request at 2:30 p.m. Saturday as the high sun drew beads of sweat from the music duo Tandem as they sung Christmas carols on the sidewalk.
With three merry-go-round rides and a bounce house in the background, the scene appeared more appropriate for June.
“This event’s always been on the first Saturday of December; we’re not going to change it now,” said Carol Cianfrini, whose husband, Jon, is president of the Adams Square Merchants Assn., which sponsored the festival. “We just went bigger this year.”
For the past five years, the merchant square has held its tree lighting ceremony near the intersection of Adams Street and East Chevy Chase Drive. And they would do it again at sundown Saturday.
But this year, the association decided to broaden the cheer.
“This time, we had a little money left over, so we thought, ‘What the heck?’” Jon Cianfrini said.
They added rides, increased their outreach efforts throughout south Glendale, and instead of having a designated photographer for the Santa set up, they told parents to bring their own cameras “and have at it,” the Cianfrinis said.
Children also had free rein of arts and crafts stations inside the Adams Square branch library as volunteers dished out free refreshments.
Of course, in scheduling Santa Claus for the event, organizers were careful to note the start time for the Montrose Christmas Parade, which was scheduled for just a few hours later.
“Of course, the kids know Santa can’t be in two places at once,” Carol Cianfrini said with a wink.
Lena Hong, 6, also knew Santa Claus might be her only shot at a Bratz Walking Doll since her mom, Carol, had already nixed the request.
“Santa will bring it to me,” she said sheepishly while clinging to her mom’s thighs.
But it wasn’t all about the children Saturday. Marie Gonzalez said her two young children get more and more anxious as Christmas nears — to the point of annoying.
“It’s all they talk about for three straight weeks, and sometimes it’s like, ‘Oh my God, niños,’” she said. “Things like this give them a chance to get it out of their system.”
JASON WELLS covers City Hall. He may be reached at (818) 637-3235 or by e-mail at email@example.com.