Singing, dancing and merriment of the season will be part of holiday festivities in downtown Pleasant Hill, as the public will once again Light up the Night.

Starting at 5 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 28, horse-drawn carriages will make their way up and down Crescent Drive, where riders can spot Frosty, Rudolph and other costumed characters.

There will be a holiday arts and crafts fair, meet-and-greet time with Santa and an estimated 2,500 free homemade cookies -- compliments of the culinary program at Diablo Valley College.

The fourth annual downtown celebration started with a group of visitors who were already good sports and in festive spirits -- and the good cheer just keeps on going.

Mayor John Hanecak was one of the ringleaders. That first year -- lacking a tree to light up -- impromptu, he asked the relatively small crowd of nearly 200 to close their eyes for a few seconds and reopen them as the photovoltaic lights on the street trees along Crescent Drive were already lit.

"There was a lot of laughter. We all clapped," he says, noting the ensuing incentive to acquire the current 28-foot artificial tree.

Hanecak has been helping to foster community since his boyhood, recalling weekend night games of hide-and-seek on Beverly Drive, a street with neighbors inspired to "hang out together."

"It's just one person on a block inviting people over and having those conversations," he says. "Light up the Night was another one of those events ... an excuse to get together."


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It is a venue where Aggie Eidson and her group of 60-plus Studio A Dancers feel right at home. They will be performing tap, jazz and ballet pieces choreographed to popular Christmas music.

Her 5-year-olds will be dressed as mice for the well-known Nutcracker's mouse scene.

"They so love being part of the community, to get out and perform in their own neighborhood. They can't wait," Eidson says. "It gets the dancers into the holiday spirit."

Live entertainment also includes performances by the College Park High School Concert Choir, the Contra Costa Christian High School Senior Choir and Generations Church.

Kelly Calhoun, who was one of the core members that started the tradition, credits its success to the collaborative efforts of the city of Pleasant Hill, the downtown property owners and local merchants, and the Pleasant Hill Recreation and Park District, that recruits entertainment and oversees the craft fair.

"It's evolved into a great example of a private, public partnership. It's fostered that community spirit," says the city's economic development manager.

if you go
What: Light up the Night with tree lighting, musical entertainment, dance performances, carriage rides, arts and crafts fair, free hot chocolate and cookies, special merchant discount and prize giveaways
When: 5-8 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 28 (tree lighting at 6 p.m. in the plaza in front of Pasta Pomodoro)
Where: Crescent Drive, Pleasant Hill (entertainment is also on the plaza stage between Jack's Restaurant and Sweet Tomatoes)
Information: Call 925-671-5229 or visit www.pleasant-hill.net/lutn for a complete schedule