City of Murrieta staff are gearing to make the holidays a bit more magical this year under a new calendar of events approved by Murrieta City of Council.
A major change is the addition of the Festival of Trees on Saturday, Nov. 30, at Town Square Park, which will include a lighting ceremony for a 25-foot tree. In addition, several 5- to 6- foot-tall cut trees to be lit and decorated by community members will line the inner loop of the park—all while professional and community groups provide background holiday music.
Murrieta City Council voted unanimously Sept. 3 to keep the city’s annual Push-Cart Parade, but slightly shift the staff focus to concentrate more on the festival.
In a previous meeting, Council had discussed making changes to the holiday lineup due dwindling community participation in recent years despite attempts such as bringing snow to Town Square and one year, an ice-skating rink.
Since January, Councilman Randon Lane and Councilman Alan Long had served on a Holiday Magic Subcommittee that included city event staff and community members.
Council on Sept. 3 approved one-time fees of $6,000 associated with the new activities.
According to Murrieta Parks and Recreation Manager Lea Kolek, the Community Services Department in prior years has utilized an annual overall holiday activities budget of $25,000, $5,000 to $6,000 of which has typically gone toward the Push-Cart Parade.
Savings realized from decreasing staff efforts on the parade, as well as the additional $6,000 approved by Council, will be put toward a lift to get the 25-foot-tall tree off its delivery truck; planting the tree; running electrical to the tree; and purchasing lights for the tree.
There will be no cost to the city for the tree itself, as the Murrieta Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has offered to purchase the tree.
Kolek noted that the tree will most likely be Redwood, to be planted to the left of the outdoor amphitheater at Town Square Park. If the city is unable to locate a nursery with such a live tree in stock in time for this year’s festivities, it may opt for a cut tree in the interim, she said.
As for the parade, it will be Saturday, Nov. 30, just prior to the Festival of Trees. The staging area will be at Kalmia Street and Washington Avenue. The route will take parade entries south on Washington, then east on B Street to Town Square Park, where the entries will then line the outer loop of the park.
In keeping with past years, entries must be non-motorized.
Groups such as the Friends of the Murrieta Library and Historic Downtown Murrieta Association have already committed to entering.
“We are hoping that the community will overcome some of the obstacles that we found have hampered them from putting in floats in the past and put a float in,” Kolek said. “Entries can be pushed or pulled, horse drawn, walked or ridden, so long as they are eco-friendly.”
Following the parade, the community is invited to attend the tree lighting and Festival of Trees at Town Square Park.
Park activities that evening will also consist of a kids’ craft area, face painting, pictures with Santa, a food and crafters village area, and a “Fill the Sleigh” campaign to kick off to the city’s annual food and toy drive.
Professional entertainment will provide a backdrop to the park activities, as will holiday songs sung by local church choirs or other choral organizations before and immediately following the tree lighting ceremony.
The Nov. 30 event will kickoff other City of Murrieta Holiday Magic traditions such as Santa visits to neighborhood stars, Letters from Santa and the Holiday Home Decorating Contest, according to Kolek.
For the public’s enjoyment, the 25-foot tree will remain lit at Town Square Park throughout the month of December.
Staff is hoping to display the smaller trees for a short time and then either auction them off to provide funding for the Food and Toy Drive or donate them to local families in need.
Questions regarding Holiday Magic festivities can be directed to Laura Frasso, special events coordinator, at 951-461-6110 or email@example.com.