Thousands turned out for Saturday night's annual Hometown Holiday parade and tree lighting ceremony in downtown Pleasanton, with the crowd possibly the largest ever for the three-hours of marching bands, floats, walking elves and, of course, Santa.
The award-winning bands from Foothill and Amador Valley High schools provided Christmas music with a marching beat as more than 3,000 joined in the parade while thousands more watched from curbside. Merchants doled out popcorn and special treats and many stores stayed open, filled with shoppers who took brief breaks from watching the parade to pick up a few early Christmas presents.
Following 30 minutes of caroling, Mayor Jennifer Hosterman, joined by Santa, pulled the 1920s-era switch on the review stand to light the colorful Christmas tree in front of the Museum On Main, shouting "Happy holidays and a Merry Christmas" to hundreds standing in front of the museum. She was joined by Council members Cheryl Cook-Kallio, Cindy McGovern and Matt Sullivan, with holiday greetings sent on Facebook by Vice Mayor Jerry Thorne, who was in Denver.
Almost balmy temperatures in the upper 50s and no rain greeted festival-goers, although a very light drizzle started just a few minutes after the tree lighting ceremonies ended. Main Street and some side streets that had been closed to traffic since 3 p.m. were gradually re-opened starting at 8 p.m. although restaurants and stores that remained open continued to be crowded well into the night.
Saturday night's parade and tree lighting ceremonies culminated several weeks of early holiday activity in downtown Pleasanton, which started Nov. 19 with "Magical Holiday Evening."
That was follow by "Earlier than the Bird," a merchant-sponsored shopping extravaganza that began at 7 a.m. the next day, Saturday, Nov. 20. "Black Friday," with its deep discount sales at Wal-Mart and Stoneridge Shopping Center, added to strong retail sales in Pleasanton with this weekend's festivities bringing in still more sales and, hopefully, profits to downtown merchants who have been struggling in the last two recessionary years.