Community shows up to turn on the lights at the Sunken Gardens

ATASCADERO — A cold, wet, and pitch-dark night didn’t dampen festivities too much on Friday, Dec. 2, as the City of Atascadero and Chamber of Commerce once again lit up the Sunken Gardens and the iconic City Hall for Christmas.

The annual event included an art and wine tour, performances by the Atascadero Community Band and the Atascadero Fine Arts Academy Choir, with a visit from Santa Claus, who posed for pictures with kids (of all ages).

The off and on drizzle did cause the band to cut its performance a little short when the rain picked up, to protect delicate instruments and paper sheet music.


Santa had perhaps the lightest moment as he and Mrs. Claus were being chauffeured to City Hall on the fire department’s Model A Fire Truck. With siren blaring, the old truck was making its way to City Hall when it suddenly blew out several puffs of smoke and blasted out a half dozen loud backfires, and the old truck came to a halt a half block short of its destination, dying with a gasp.

Undeterred, Santa hopped down and led a procession to the tent set up for his visit. Meanwhile, firefighters worked on their beautiful antique truck and got her going once again.

Mayor Heather Moreno and fellow council members urged the crowd to help count down from 10, and a giant PG&E light switch was thrown, lighting up City Hall with hundreds of lights. 

A pair of huge draft horses pulled a wagon filled with people around the Sunken Gardens, with dozens of folks lining up in the queue waiting their turn to ride.

Over 200 people braved the rain and chilly night to celebrate the return of the Christmas tradition.

The event was organized by City Manager Terrie Banish and her team, along with the Chamber. Plans were for a major event with numerous beverage companies attending, including, Aged & Infused, Bristols Cider House, Bubble Butt, Carbon 6 Wine Bar, Central Coast Distillery, Dubost Winery, Ella’s Vineyard, Epoch Estate Wines, Felten Cellars, Grape Encounters Wine Bar, Grey Wolf & Barton Family Wines, Hoyt Family Vineyards, Hubba Wines, Kula Vineyards & Winery, Lapis Luna Wines, Lone Madrone Winery, MEA Wines, Midnight Cellars, Mystic Hills Winery, Slayton Wines, Timshel Vineyards, and Wild Fields Brew House, according to a news release put out before the event. Unfortunately, the rain kept them away.

Numerous businesses were also slated to take part or were sponsors, they included 805 Boardshop, Ametza, Anna & Company, Atrium Mercantile, Baby’s Babble, Belnano Coffee, Black Sheep, Bloke, Bramble Pie Company, Century 21 Hometown Realty, Edward Jones, Farron Elizabeth, Gordon’s Good Games, Haven Blue Salon, Indigo Clothing, Juice Boss, Little Bit 805, Morjesis Salon, Oracle, Salon AER, SLODOCO Donut, Specs by Kyla, The Book Odyssey, The Lot, Tyndall Tile Showroom & Supply, and Totum. Additional food vendors include Alex’s Roasted Corn, Carndonagh Kitchen, and Templeton Pizza & Greek Food.

And local artists participating included Adam Eron Welch, Amber Allena, Charles Matthews, Claudia Mapes, Guy Kinnear, Lisa Falk, Madeline Persin, Page of Art History, Jenna Hartzell & Janet Wallace, Riana, Tea’ Jolon, and Wendy Tuttle.

Yet despite the rain, the chill and the all-around gloomy night, the hardy folks that did turn out seemed to have fun, and the kids were just as excited — and in some cases terrified — to see Santa Claus.

And well, no one was complaining about rain, as California’s prolonged drought makes one consider every drop that falls a blessing.

Photos by Rick Evans / ATN