Half an hour before the lights of downtown Napa’s Christmas tree flashed on, the encroaching holiday was much in evidence at Veterans Memorial Park. But as a throng of onlookers shared hot chocolate and light chatter, the city’s holiday kickoff was a time for some to enjoy quieter family pleasures even in the crowd.
While a collection of preschool-age girls in red dresses were being prepared for one of the dance performances before the tree ceremony, one, 4-year-old Giada Parga, ran and gamboled toward her waiting grandmother, Lynn Lyle, for whom the hundreds surrounding her melted away for a moment.
“It’s a lot of fun to watch my granddaughters here,” Lyle said during the countdown to Napa’s tree illumination. “Maybe even more fun the second time around.”
Under skies that had cleared in the morning after a rain-drenched start to the week, several hundred spectators gathered at Veterans Memorial Park to circle a 29-foot-tall Christmas tree garlanded with grape ornaments.
“We got a nice (night) this year, a warmer one, too. Last year it was kind of sprinkly,” said Deserei Parga, 28, Lyle’s daughter and mother of Giada.
The downtown light display, now in its fourth year, is paid for by the Napa Downtown Association and property owners paying assessments to support the central business district.
Along city blocks near the tree, holiday illuminations have been set up across 4 miles of bridges, rooftops and promenades. A widened net of light shows this year now includes buildings that house the Wells Fargo bank branch, the Vintners Collective at Main Street, the Allegria restaurant on First Street and the Brown Street walkway to Napa Creek.
The turnout for the tree’s holiday debut impressed two teenage friends, Trevor Hardee and Calli Stonecipher, who awaited the lighting a few feet away.
“I didn’t think there’d be this many people here,” said Hardee, a New Technology High School student. “I know it didn’t used to be like this.”
“I think it’s really great to be able to share it, because the holidays are about being together,” said Stonecipher, Hardee’s schoolmate.
After a series of dances in the park’s riverfront bowl, organizers gathered the several dozen young performers together to face the tree at the corner of Main and Third streets. Finally, at 6:30 p.m., its branches broke out in dozens of points of light gleaming against the early-evening darkness, becoming almost as bright as Lyle’s mood.
“It’s really important to me to be able to live a life with the freedom to celebrate Christmas,” she said. “For me, it’s always been special, ever since I was a child — a sweet time and a sweet memory.”