PIEDMONT -- Hundreds of Piedmonters turned out to celebrate the season at the Holiday Tree Lighting, a tradition that dates back to the 1960s.
Families milled around the patio Dec. 5 in front of the Piedmont Community Center, enjoying hot cider and cookies as they waited for festivities to begin in Piedmont Park.
"I went to high school here and recently moved back," said Piedmont resident Will Corson, who was with his wife Louise and children William, 10, Isabel, 8, and Joseph, 3.
Isabel took a realistic view of the evening.
"I don't think Santa can come tonight because he must be busy," said Isabel, a student at Beach Elementary. "It must be somebody else dressed up as Santa."
Her brother, William, said he was excited to "see the tree light up and the big star on top."
At 7 p.m. sharp, Mayor John Chiang took the podium to welcome the big crowd.
"This is one of my favorite events throughout the year," said Chiang, who thanked the Boy Scouts for serving the cider, which was donated by Piedmont Grocery, and Cub Scouts for handing out candy canes. The Piedmont Beautification Foundation organizes the Holiday Tree Lighting with help from Piedmont's Public Works Department.
"We're fortunate that the rains stopped for us," Chiang said.
After the mayor's introduction, Piedmont High School's Troubadours chorus sang a selection of holiday favorites, rounding out with an audience singalong of "Rudolph the Red-Nosed
Susy Struble and her husband, David Struble, have lived in Piedmont for more than two years. They brought along their children, Quinton, 3, and Benjamin, 1. Struble grew up in a small Midwestern town where, she said, this kind of community event is common.
"I appreciate finding that same sense of community here in Piedmont -- that's why we moved here," she said. "It's nice to have that small-town feeling in such an urban setting."
Roberto Castro had his tripod set up to take pictures of the tree lighting. He came with his daughter, Samantha, 10, and her friend, Kaia Kim.
"We look forward to this every year, it's just a great time to get together," Roberto Castro said.
Another Piedmont resident, Erin Day, brought her 7-year-old son Brayden. She said coming to the tree lighting and connecting with friends was part of her tradition growing up in Piedmont.
"I like the tree lights and meeting my friends here," said Brayden, a student at Beach Elementary.
After the welcomes and thanks, Santa took center stage, to squeals of delight from the children.
"How can we light up the tree? Do we have magic in our fingers?" Santa asked.
Then, with the crowd counting down and a flip of a switch, Piedmont's holiday tree -- a living, 75-foot-tall redwood -- lit up the park.