By RHEA-FRANCES TETLEY
Santa came to the mountains last weekend and will be visiting many locations these next few weeks. On Saturday, in the late afternoon after the Blue Jay parade, he arrived at 5:30 p.m. on a fire truck at the north shore parking lot of Lake Gregory where the County Fire department from Station 26 built a huge bonfire for warmth for the annual Crestline Family Christmas, sponsored by Goodwin’s Market.
There were free hot dogs, hot chocolate, cookies and coffee to keep everyone happy while awaiting their opportunity to see and talk personally with Santa. Each child 10 and under received a small toy from Santa, including small dolls, Hot Wheels, Play-Doh and other gifts.
Those gifts were wrapped earlier in the week by 12 community volunteers, some wrapping and some cutting paper or tape, down in the basement of Goodwin’s Market, after an open invitation was shared throughout the community to anyone who wanted to help. There were kids from age 10 and up cutting paper and eating the pizza that was provided.
Goodwin’s Vice President and General Manager Mike Johnstone said, “This is so much fun getting together to do something positive for the community. It was a very efficient night – we got so much done in such a short time. I’m looking forward to Saturday night, too.”
“It’s fun wrapping these presents together and rewarding to think of the children’s faces when they get them,” said Anita Tirado. Other community volunteers included Annie and Donna Garcia and Jacque Godwin, plus chamber of commerce volunteers. Chamber Vice President Louis Boehle and Jamboree Days Chairman Dirk Rinker were there cracking jokes. “Rarely have I spent an evening having so much fun doing for others,” said Rinker. The kids even wrapped themselves up in gift wrap. The gifts were purchased by Goodwin’s Market for this free evening with Santa.
After Santa arrived, he took time and spoke with every child who wanted to speak with him, no matter how long their Christmas list was, creating a long line wrapping itself around the edge of the parking lot. Parents happily snapped photos of their children with the “big guy” for free with a backdrop of Lake Gregory. It is estimated that Santa spoke with over 300 local children.
The Crestline Christmas Band from Woodlands Church played Christmas music all evening long, starting with “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer,” “Jingle Bell Rock” and other popular holiday classics. The children were dancing around the bonfire, rocking out to the live music.
There were some games for the kids, such “put the nose on the snowman,” and crafts such as making mini-Christmas stockings and ornaments sponsored by the various community churches. The bonfire ended at 8 p.m. with hundreds of happy children getting an opportunity to be up close and personal with Santa.
At 6:30 p.m., Pastor Dan Stipp from the Lake Gregory Community Church told the Christmas story, after which a countdown was led with the Christmas tree on the south shore of Lake Gregory suddenly exploding with lights to the “oohs and aahs” of the crowd. The tree will be lit from around sunset each night until morning, from now and through the holidays, said a Lake Gregory Company spokesman.
The Crestline Family Christmas has been a many-decades-long tradition in Crestline. The Lake Arrowhead bonfire was also held this week on Wednesday, Dec. 7 from 5 to 9 p.m. at Lake Arrowhead Village, also attended by Santa.
It is predicted Santa will be seen in many other places these next weeks, too, including weekly at Lake Arrowhead Village and both Saturday and Sunday of this weekend, Dec. 10 and 11, for free at the Mountain History Museum from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 27176 Peninsula Drive in Lake Arrowhead.
The bonfire, created by the local firefighters in the center of the north shore parking lot at Lake Gregory, brought warmth to all who attended.
Crestline Family Christmas 2
The kids wrapped up in gift wrap during the gift wrap party.
The Crestline Christmas tree all lit up on Lake Gregory’s south shore; it will continue to be lit nightly all season long.
(Photos by Rhea-Frances Tetley)