Santa Claus sent several representatives of himself to Calistoga last weekend. It seemed everywhere you turned there he was, or someone dressed like him. Everybody knows the real Santa doesn’t set out on his sleigh behind his reindeer until Christmas Eve, but his look-alikes served as a reminder to all the boys and girls in Calistoga to continue to be nice and get their wish lists ready.
And right behind Santa, who rode atop a Calistoga fire truck on Saturday night, was a group of Oakland Police Department officers on their motorcycles who returned to town under much more festive circumstances than when they were here in October, patrolling the city during the fires.
This was at least their second “social” visit since they returned to Solbar for lunch in early November.
“It was awesome,” said Mayor Chris Canning of the Oakland Police officers’ inclusion.
Friday’s Holiday Village and tree lighting kicked off the weekend with lots of activities for kids, and adult beverages to keep the whole family happy. Saturday concluded with thousands lining the streets to cheer on the 22nd Annual Lighted Tractor Parade.
Children danced and pranced under the fake snow machine at the Holiday Village and the parade, delighting in the bubbly “flakes” drifting down. The first Holiday Village included a tree lighting of a tall fir tree next to the Calistoga Police Station strung with white lights.
Children sat as motionless as possible so artists could paint fun holiday images on their faces. A bouncy house invited children to burn off some energy. Skill seekers could try their hand at a bean bag toss or “pin the red nose on Rudolph” while blindfolded.
Young dancers from Little Feet School of Dance in St. Helena entertained at the stage next to where the a handful of Calistoga Winegrower Association members sold glasses of wine for $5 – far below retail value – donating all the wine for the evening and turning over all the money collected to fire relief funds. Wineries at the “North Pole Wine Garden” included Bennett Lane Winery, Canard Vineyards, Jericho Canyon Vineyards, Kenefick Ranch Winery and von Strasser and Lava Vine Winery.
Evangeline served a spicy, house-made gumbo, and the Holly Trolley drove riders past some of the best-decorated homes in town. Shops in town stayed open later than usual for shoppers and downtown wine tasting rooms paired wines with gingerbread.
Saturday’s festivities included Calistoga’s 48th Annual Christmas Faire with arts and crafts, gift shopping booths, artisan wares for sale, cookie and cupcake decorating, carolers, and something for everyone to enjoy.
The star of the weekend’s cast, the Lighted Tractor Parade, shone ever bright with 60 entries small and large. One of the smallest may have been Margaux Singleton’s teeny-tiny Smart car with a sign on top with a hopeful, “I wanna be a tractor” and a John Deere hat on the hood strapped down by star-shaped white lights.
There were antique tractors and cars wrapped with hundreds of colorful lights and other ornamentation, such as the UpValley Family Center’s (UVFC) entry driven by Genevieve Welsh pulling behind her a trailer of red wagons filled with gifts, UVFC’s executive director Jenny Ocon, spirited staff, children wearing reindeer antlers and pennants of joy.
Mayor Chris Canning said attendance was estimated to be at around 16,000. Canning’s “day job” is executive director of the Chamber of Commerce that promotes the parade, but this year decided to forgo any marketing to try to keep in check the attendance to avoid overcrowding streets and sidewalks.
This year’s parade route – starting at Stevenson Street, onto Lincoln Avenue toward and down Washington Street, ending at N. Oak Street — was altered due to construction of the Berry Street Bridge, which is the only other in-town crossing over the Napa River. The other Napa River bridge is Lincoln Avenue’s, which is also under construction. The parade will return to its regular route next year.