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Crowds Converge in Laguna for Santa and Football

Crowds during Hospitality Night in 2006.

Summer trolleys will be boarding football fans in downtown Laguna Beach this Friday, Dec. 2, forcing Santa Claus to detour from his usual City Hall destination on Hospitality Night due to overlapping events sure to create traffic congestion in the early evening.

Fans attending Laguna Beach High School’s semi-final CIF playoff game against archrival Corona del Mar will be encouraged to park at the ACT V lot in Laguna Canyon and board a free trolley. The express buses will skirt Hospitality Night festivities, making a single stop en route to the football field to board passengers at a temporary stop opposite City Hall. Trolleys will run from 5 to 10 p.m.

Santa’s traditional arrival for the annual tree lighting, which in the past required shutting off traffic from Third Street and Forest Avenue, will be relocated to the main stage on Forest at Glenneyre Street at 6 p.m., where he and the mayor will light a tree, event organizer Rose Hancock said. Thurston Middle School band’s performance will also be relocated.

“We came to the conclusion it wasn’t prudent to close Third Street,” Susan Cannan, the city’s community services director, said Wednesday. Forcing more traffic to Coast Highway would create a “chokepoint,” she said.

“It’s a big night; this will be even bigger,” Cannan said.

An extra 1,200 seats will be added to the visitor’s side of the high school field to accommodate the expected crowd for the historic 7 p.m. contest. Seats will be placed in the end zone and on the track, putting visitors closer to the field than the 2,000 fans in the home-stands. “If you want to be on the losing side,” pointed out the school’s athletic director and head football coach, Mike Churchill.

Game tickets will be sold at three gates; $8 for adults, $5 for students. “I don’t know where I’m going to put the calliope and elephants, but we’ll have a circus,” Churchill promised. He encouraged fans to buy tickets in advance if possible or arrive early.

After the game, trolleys will depart from the high school at Park Avenue and St. Ann’s Drive, stopping at the Senior Center and ACT V lot.

Other Hospitality Night activities will commence as usual.

Festivities will begin at 5 p.m. with a bell choir concert and sing along at the Laguna Presbyterian Church. Other enticements include crafts for sale and homemade tamales. The church also invites donations of new and gently used children’s books intended for Santa Ana’s Wilson Elementary School in Santa Ana.

Laguna Beach Community Band also performs holiday classics at the Forest Avenue Plaza, better known as a public parking lot.

Santa will meet up with Mrs. Claus in their temporary winter home near Forest’s intersection with Glenneyre Street. She anticipates enjoying main stage performances by Miss Linda’s acolytes, the Anneliese’s School choir and a steel drum group adding Caribbean flavor to the festivities.

“I’ve been involved with Hospitality Night for 20 years now and I am still amazed at how kind and giving Laguna residents are,” said event organizer Sande St. John.

“It’s a time to pause and remember and this year, as before, pray for our soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, to appreciate friends and family and also to help the less fortunate in our community to put food on the table,” she said.

This year’s festivities come right on the heels of the First Thursday Art Walk, but tonight downtown there will be cookies and libation all along the street, not just at galleries, until 9 p.m.

“It’s time for the locals to come out and be with friends and family,” said Laurie Alter, who opened the gift and home store Tuvalu, situated near Santa’s winter quarters. “It’s a little crazy at times with Santa right outside but it’s fun. It brings out a lot of people who normally don’t shop downtown.”

Forest 225, specializing in sports and recreation gear, has invited the Sonja Griffith & Friends Gospel Choir to perform in addition to featuring holiday themed films on inside television screens and a DJ spinning pop holiday music. Artwork by Laguna Beach High School students adds to the festive ambience. “I can’t wait; it’s going to be so much fun, just awesome,” enthused store manager Candace Bullard.

Hobie, at 294 Forest Ave., will hold an in-store fundraiser for the Boys and Girls Club featuring raffle items, a bake sale and a silent auction, said assistant manager Trevor Erickson. “Ten percent from that night’s sales will also benefit the club,” he said. “People can also ‘adopt’ kids to buy presents for.” He emphasized that gifts don’t have to be bought at Hobie. The Ken Garcia Band will provide festive sounds. “We hope to give the Boys and Girls Club a big fat check when this is all over,” said Erickson, who plans to dress up as Scrooge.

A free screening of “It’s A Wonderful Life” at the South Coast Cinema will cap off the evening at 9:15 p.m.

 

 

Side Bar Events/Times:

5 p.m. Bell choir and community sing-a-long, La Playa

Preschool Tamales Booth, Craft Bazaar and Open

House – Laguna Presbyterian Church, 415 Forest Ave.

5 p.m. Laguna Beach Community Band – Forest Avenue Plaza

(Peppertree Lane)

5:30 p.m Thurston Middle School Band performance, Main Stage

6 p.m. Santa at Main Stage.

6 p.m. Laguna Toons, Forest & Beach Ave.

 

6-9:45 p.m. Main Stage at Glenneyre: Miss Linda’s troupe, Anneliese’s Choir, H. Charton, Holiday Steel Drums.

9:15 p.m. “It’s A Wonderful Life” Free screening at South Coast Cinema, 162 S. Coast Hwy.

 

 

 

 

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