Atascadero Lake joined in the holiday fun, too

ATASCADERO — Atascadero kicked off December in style by drenching itself in Christmas lights. Light Up the Downtown started the weekend’s festivities on Friday, Dec. 1. The night was combined with the Atascadero Chamber of Commerce’s First Friday Holiday Sip and Shop event, meaning there was holiday cheer for every age that evening. 

The event started at 5:30 with a performance from The Fine Arts Academy Honor Choir and the Atascadero Community Band, before a countdown that led to the Christmas lights on City Hall and in Sunken Gardens turning on.

“Welcome everyone. Happy Holidays,” said Mayor Heather Moreno before the lights were turned on. “The City of Atascadero is so glad that you’ve joined us tonight. We have a lot of holiday activities coming up this month and this one’s kind of kicking it off and we’re excited that you are all here.” 

2023 Atascadero Tree Lighting Rick Evans0015
Photos by Rick Evans

At the end of her speech, Moreno invited all the kiddos in the audience to come up to the steps of City Hall to count down from 10. As the crowd full of children and adults alike yelled “one” downtown Atascadero officially lit up in all its holiday splendor. City Hall, including a ginormous wreath, sparkled with white lights, while the Christmas tree in Sunken Gardens had a bit of an electricity issue, but a few minutes later, after a quick fix, the holiday magic was complete. 

“It [Light Up the Downtown] is a team effort. It involves every staff member that we have under the city,” said Terrie Banish, the city’s director of community services and promotions. “From decorating with our public works team that gets up and decorates all on top of City Hall and the tree in Sunken Gardens. Just the coordination effort on behalf of everybody to do the countdown. There’s about 10 to 15 people in City Hall that are listening to the countdown to make all the lights come on at the same time.” 

Atascadero Fire was also there and brought Santa and Mrs. Claus to hear Atascadero’s kids’ Christmas wishes at 6 p.m. in their Model A firetruck, before offering free rides to the crowd. Harris Stage Lines was also there giving people free hayrides around downtown.

2023 Atascadero Tree Lighting Rick Evans0022
Photos by Rick Evans

The holiday festivities continued on Saturday, Dec. 2, from 5:30 to 9 p.m. with the Holiday Musical Walk Around the Lake. Houses around Atascadero Lake participated in the fun evening by decking their properties out with Christmas lights and holiday decorations while the community showed up to walk the well-loved loop. 

On top of all the lights and all the stunning visuals, there were also church groups caroling, popcorn, cotton candy, s’more stations, warm drinks, and photo booths for kids and adults alike. The Charles Paddock Zoo was also open to the public for free and Santa and Mrs. Claus made an appearance there. And the crowds were eating all the fun up.

“This is our first time,” said Atascadero resident Judi Schmidt of the Walk Around the Lake. “It was wonderful. We enjoyed it. We brought our granddaughter, and we just love doing all things Christmas. So here we are.”

The Atascadero High School Concert Band, Strings Orchestra, Jazz Band, and Jazz Combo also performed their 2023 Winter Concert at the Pavilion on the Lake during the lake walks, and the doors were open for the entire community to pop in and watch. 

Photos by Rick Evans