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City of Murrieta May Revamp Holiday Festivities

A tree-lighting ceremony at Town Square Park is under consideration, while the future of the traditional push-cart parade in Historic Downtown Murrieta is uncertain.

The City of Murrieta has traditionally held a push-cart holiday parade featuring non-motorized entries. (Patch file photo).
The City of Murrieta has traditionally held a push-cart holiday parade featuring non-motorized entries. (Patch file photo).

It may be August, but not too soon for the City of Murrieta to begin making its holiday plans now.

The city has traditionally held a push-cart parade in early December to kick off its nearly monthlong Holiday Magic festivities. Due to shrinking community participation during the last few years, however, city officials are discussing other ways to liven up the season.

This could include bringing a tree-lighting festival to Town Square Park.

Council members Randon Lane and Alan Long have been serving on a subcommittee that has involved meeting with Community Services Department staff, members of community groups and churches.

Staff presented the results of those discussions to the entire City Council during its Aug. 6 meeting.

Suggestions include a day of activities in Town Square Park culminating in a tree-lighting ceremony, kids’ craft area, face painting, pictures with Santa Claus, performances by local choirs, food vendors and a crafters’ village, according to Lea Kolek, community services manager for the City of Murrieta.

The Murrieta Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has offered to donate a 25-foot live tree for lighting, Kolek said.

The event could also serve, Kolek said, as a kick-off for the city’s annual food and toy drive, with the suggestion being to encourage residents to fill Santa’s horse-drawn sleigh with donations after he rides into the park.

Another idea was to also incorporate a festival of trees at the park. Community groups would be invited to decorate the trees with varying themes. Mayor Pro Tem Kelly Bennett suggested donating those decorated trees to needy families, as the city has continually had a theme of helping its less fortunate.

A sticking point during the Aug. 6 discussion was the future of the push-cart parade, and whether its route should end at Town Square in an effort to increase participation and draw the community for the tree lighting.

The parade, for which residents and community groups are invited to make lighted, non-motorized entries, drew 50 entries last year, city staff said. Of those, eight were push-carts, three of which were built by city staff and five by community members. Other entries included groups that walked or rode horseback, bicycles or scooters. This was despite staff’s efforts toward getting the word out plus holding push-cart building workshops, Kolek said.

City Council heard from one group that has consistently entered a push cart in the parade: The Friends of the Murrieta Library.

“One the unique things Murrieta has is the push-cart parade,” said Carol Carson, current treasurer for The Friends of the Murrieta Library. “...I like all the ideas about combining the park activities with the parade, but I am hoping that you won’t let the parade go by the wayside.”

There has historically been contention as to the route of the parade, according to Lane.

“We haven’t had a year that we haven’t had a complaint about the route we have taken,” Lane said. “...So let’s try and combine the two and see how it goes this year.”

The procession has traditionally made its way along Washington Avenue in Historic Downtown Murrieta. Whether it should start at Kalmia Street or Ivy Street, and whether it should run the length between, has been a recurring question.

In past years, there have been craft and vendor fairs along Washington as part of the event, as well as a tree lighting.

Connie McConnell, president of the Historic Downtown Merchant Association, approached City Council about the matter.

“We would really like to see it stay on Washington and go all the way if that is at all possible,” McConnell said, adding that HDMA has always participated and that the parade is “one thing Murrieta does different.”

Other holiday options such as allowing motorized floats in the parade or arranging for an ice-skating rink at Town Square were also discussed.

Last year, the city held a snow event at Town Square complemented by food cooked by the Murrieta Firefighters Association.

It was recommended to continue other Holiday Magic activities, such as the Santa visits to neighborhoods to collect food and toy donations, the city’s holiday home decorating contest and Letters from Santa.

No decisions were made during the meeting.

Mayor Rick Gibbs said if there were to be changes they would need to happen soon to allow sufficient time for planning and advertising.

"We need to do this fairly quickly and get this back to Council,” Gibbs said, noting the Veterans Day parade, which is always well-attended, is set to occur just two weeks prior to the push-cart parade.

The city needs to come up with a "secret sauce" for its holiday festivities, the mayor said.

“We haven’t figured it out yet, so if we are going to keep a push-cart parade, we need participation from the city of Murrieta, or else there is no point in keeping it, because it is the city’s parade," Gibbs said.

Pattie Roberts/Save the Animals Today August 13, 2013 at 01:27 PM
Please don't cancel the Christmas Push Cart Parade! It keeps that wonderful small town atmosphere and allows so many little groups to participate in a real parade on a limited budget.
Murrieta Momma August 13, 2013 at 03:20 PM
I like the idea of the tree lighting ceremony and having it kick off a food drive! Could the parade be scaled down so the streets are not having to be closed? It would allow people and groups to participate but not have to close the streets down. Could they even go around the walking trail near the library? I have been here four years and did not know about this event but would like to be involved! Sounds like a wonderful way of getting the community together and giving to those who need a helping hand too.
april August 14, 2013 at 07:27 PM
I have participated in the push cart event two years in a row and enjoyed the activity so much... I have been unable for various reasons and although I didn't we enjoyed participating... There has got to be a way to advertise, while keeping residnets on the route happy. Suggestion- I know that all high schools perform float building during there scheduled homecoming games... perhaps each school can have students build and store a push cart representing there schools and use so it is ready! They are all together building anyway, and supplies are being donated to most, just an idea. That could garuantee you three more entries.. they could invite there ASB's from the middle schools to join in the building of the push carts while the "big" kids are building their floats... ok so now you would have 6 entries. :) on and on and on... Perhaps this is far-fetched? Just thinking out loud to the patch :)
Michael August 15, 2013 at 12:17 AM
The Historic Downtown Merchants Association should get a clue form Old town Temecula and rebuild that area .Its old with no real restaraunts or shopping and nobody wants to spend their money the way it is now.Low turnout for the pushcart parade is that its a lame idea and what do the folks do after the parade,go somewhere else and spend their money.I'm all for a tree lighting ceramony,Santa visits etc.but the city council and the HDMA needs wise up and look into future for our growing poulation and revitalize Murrieta,enough already of trying to keep Murrieta like a "small midwestern town".BTW I and many of my neighbors never knew a push cart parade even existed.

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