Concord and Clayton have long-established holiday traditions and offer festive places for residents to kickoff the season and congregate for events.

This Saturday in Clayton, Santa will make his big entrance in a restored police car with the town's new police Chief Chris Thorsen as his chauffeur.

"The reindeer will be having their dinner in the hills," says Dave Atkinson, a member of the Clayton Business and Community Association, who has chaired the caroling and tree lighting celebration since its inception.

Prior to Santa's arrival in Clayton, he'll make a stop at Todos Santos Plaza in Concord in a red firetruck, accompanied by his elves.

Jim Ocean of Oceanworks Productions, who is the stage manager for the Concord event, jovially describes the atmosphere as "a huge wad of kids."

A significant segment of the youthful contingent will be appearing on stage, with such children's groups heralding from Concord High School, with its jazz band, and Ladies First, singing a cappella. Entertainment also includes choirs from Calvary Temple, Queen of All Saints and the Salvation Army.

And, 35 dancers, ranging from age 3 to 26, from D'Ann's Academy of Dance and Music will be performing jazz, tap and interpretive, lyrical pieces choreographed to holiday music.

"It's our favorite show of the year. The atmosphere is so festive. The lights come on and everyone has a positive feeling," says Shauna Zimmerman, a former student who is now producing and choreographing the show.


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"I hope to bring out childhood sense of joy and to set the tone for the whole season, where people walk away with more of the Christmas spirit."

After time with Santa and a mayoral led singalong, the public will witness Concord's official lighting of the tree, with ABC7 news anchor Dan Ashley as emcee.

"It's hard to be a Scrooge, I can tell you. And if you have somebody bordering on Scrooge, bring them -- and an umbrella -- to this and they'll be misty-eyed," Ocean says, referring to the festivities taking place in inclement weather or otherwise.

Meanwhile, residents of Clayton have counted on its Business and Community Association for providing the holiday cheer for more than 20 years.

Starting at 6 p.m. Saturday -- following a vocal performance by students at Mt. Diablo Elementary School -- Santa and police chief Thorsen will lead the promenade from the gazebo at The Grove down Main Street for the annual lighting of the tree and caroling.

There will be complementary horse-and-buggy rides, and the public can feast on doughnuts and hot cider in front of Clayton Community Church.

Clayton's holiday festivities continue Saturday, Dec. 8, at Endeavor Hall with a chance to see Santa again and having dessert with Mrs. Claus, complete with centerpieces and linen tablecloths.

"It's a way to provide a nice atmosphere," says co-chair and 39-year Clayton resident Gloria Utley. "It's great to see their faces and see their excitement."

if you go
WHAT: Concord tree lighting and mayor's singalong
WHEN: 4-8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 1 (Santa arrives at 4 p.m.; music starts at 5 p.m.; tree lighting about 7 p.m.)
WHERE: Todos Santos Plaza, at Willow Pass Road and Grant Streets, Concord
INFORMATION: www.concordfirst.org or call 925-671-3464
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    WHAT: Clayton caroling and tree lighting
    WHEN: 6 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 1
    WHERE: Grove Park in downtown Clayton; walk to tree lighting at Main and Oak streets
    INFORMATION: Call 925-672-2272