Thousands of people turned out on the first weekend of December around the Santa Ynez Valley for Christmas-themed activities that included tree-lighting ceremonies, parades, and much more.
The festivities started Friday, Dec. 1, with a tree lighting in Santa Ynez and the annual Julefest tree lighting in Solvang. In Santa Ynez, people enjoyed carolers and a mini-parade of equestrians while kids sipped hot chocolate and got to meet Santa Claus.
“It’s a true small-town Christmas, straight out of the storybooks,” said Christina Panameno of Santa Ynez.
At the Solvang tree lighting, people enjoyed tap and ballet dancing by students of the Fossemalle Dance Studio, including ballerinas dancing around the tree after it was lit.
The audience was also thrilled by the singing group Mystique led by vocal teacher Heidi Jacobs; the Santa Ynez Jazz Band; and a soulful rendition of “Silent Night” by Elizabeth Padfield, accompanied on trumpet by Alan Satchwell.
“It’s great to see people get into the spirit of the season, and we embody the holidays here in Solvang,” said Tracy Farhad, executive director of the Solvang Conference and Visitors Bureau.
The next morning thousands of residents and tourists stood along the streets of Solvang to watch the annual Julefest Parade. More than 400 participants in 52 entries danced, pranced, rolled, strolled, cruised and cantered along festively decorated Mission Drive, Copenhagen Drive and adjacent streets. This year’s Julefest theme was “A Danish Tradition.”
“It’s great to start the holidays with the festive spirit and attending some of the many functions. We love watching the parade every year,” said Alice Murphy of Solvang.
Murphy and her husband William and their two young boys, Billy and Robert, enjoyed the many floats, especially those whose riders threw candy for the boys and other children to pick up.
“We have been making the Julefest Parade an annual tradition, coming up from L.A. and also making a gingerbread house at Solvang Bakery. We make it a weekend by camping and also visiting the Ostrich Farm in Buellton,” said Deborah Henderson, who was attending with her 8-year-old son, Connor.
Henderson said it’s a nice escape from the city life and reminds her of growing up in a small town and riding in parades with her family. She is an executive producer on a new television series, “Liberty Crossing,” a workplace comedy focused in the National Counterterrorism Center.
After the parade, families lined up for visits with Santa in Solvang Park, took part in the new “Nisse Adventure” game and the “Shop, Mingle & Jingle” bargains at local retailers, and took part in other food and fun activities.
On Saturday evening, the streets of Los Olivos were packed with people attending the grand reopening of Mattei’s Tavern and then heading over to the Gingerbread Wonderland, a fundraiser at St. Mark’s in-the-Valley Episcopal Church for Arts Outreach.
“It’s great to see so many families coming out to support the kids who made the gingerbread houses and Arts Outreach,” said the Rev. Randall Day of St. Mark’s.
After dark, people strolled to the center of Los Olivos to see the lighting of the Christmas tree at the community flagpole and to enjoy food and live music.
The weekend was brought to a close Sunday when about 350 people gathered in Buellton and got to play in snow that had been trucked in for the annual Winterfest celebration. In the morning families got to visit with Santa and make holiday crafts at the Buellton Rec Center, and in the evening kids made and threw snowballs on the Avenue of Flags.
Julefest Parade winners
Here are the 2017 winners of Solvang Julefest Parade awards:
- Best Theme-Oriented: Vikings of Solvang
- Best Float: Toy Town, Julia Tipolt Insurance Agency
- Equestrian Entry: Sheriff’s Mounted Enforcement Unit
- Best Vehicle Entry: 1963 VW Beetle “Herbie the Love Bug” by the Sherieff family
- Best Musical Entry: Santa Ynez Valley Jazz Band
- Best Performance Group: Paws at Play
- Best Overall Entry: Sleigh by the Santa Ynez Valley High School Robotics Team 5136