20th Annual Lemon Grove Bonfire Bash

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In 1997, former Lemon Grove Mayor Mary Sessom found inspiration in a small town that would later become a loved tradition. Miranda Evans, employee at the City Manager’s office told how Lemon Grove’s annual Bonfire was first initiated by Sessom.

“She saw how it brought the community together and was inspired to bring something like that to Lemon Grove,” said Evans. “Ever since then 20 years ago, it’s the been a tradition.”

In 1997, former Lemon Grove Mayor Mary Sessom found inspiration in a small town that would later become a loved tradition. Miranda Evans, employee at the City Manager’s office told how Lemon Grove’s annual Bonfire was first initiated by Sessom.

“She saw how it brought the community together and was inspired to bring something like that to Lemon Grove,” said Evans. “Ever since then 20 years ago, it’s the been a tradition.”

This year Lemon Grove celebrates its 40th anniversary while the Community Bonfire celebrates its 20th at Civic Center Park. In honor of both, the bonfire had a hint of extra sparkle this year.

A colorful, vibrant day offers a vast selection of games and entertainment, from ice skating to hay rides. Members and community groups each add their own allure. Generous sponsors and community volunteers make the event as free and budget friendly as possible. Each contribution magnifies the hometown charm. With these generous contributions making entertainment and games free, the most one spent is a couple dollars on mouthwatering Belgian waffles from Marcel’s food truck.

Helen Ofield, president of the Lemon Grove Historical Society said that they too contribute to the evening’s festivities.

“The Historical Society puts the ‘C’ in Christmas,” she said. “We always have Santa Claus for a short time on bonfire night and we throw open the doors of the Parsonage Museum.”

Children waited eagerly in line for one-on-one time with the man who decides if they’re naughty or nice. Santa Claus’ charming and cheerful personality made the room radiate with warmth as children laughed and enjoyed getting pictures with him.

Whimsical Christmas decor adorned the park as celebration for the holidays. Fairy lights surrounding trees and light posts add glow while illuminated snowmen with hats and penguins with scarves shine white and blue lights. All the beautiful decorations make it apparent that Christmas season arrived in Lemon Grove.

Adding to this community event, the After School Extended Dance Program brought children from different elementary schools to perform. San Miguel Elementary School students performed a traditional Mexican folklorico dance. Embroidered fuchsia and red roses outline the girls’ white shirts while colorful purple, blue, red and yellow skirts compliment them. Clouds of colorful swaying skirts filled the dance floor. Mt. Vernon Elementary School energetically danced salsa. Red sequins and fringe made up their vibrant red dresses. Vista La Mesa Elementary performed last, ending the performance with hip hop.

Lemon Grove firefighters handed out free popcorn to eager community members.

“We’re on shift today but we came here to give out popcorn like we do every year. It’s part of our tradition,” said Lemon Grove Fire Engineer Zach Loftis. “Obviously it’s very popular,” he said as a crowd surrounded him waiting for their turn.

Workers from the City Office also volunteered to give out free hot chocolate and cookies. Different groups worked to add their own aroma to the evening.

Attendees were able to have a experience a hay ride in a gorgeous vintage carriage being pulled by Sioux Munyon horses. Munyon has worked the annual Bonfire event every year and letting people eagerly ride through this event is a special experience.

Children had a selection of attractions to keep them entertained. Excited children climbed the huge rock wall while others ice skated in a small rink. Those interested in less physical activities were able to play video games in the Game Truck.

This year, there were contracts with Bros and Fries as well as Marcel. Long lines of people waiting to buy traditional Mexican carne asada tacos and sweet Belgian waffles proved worthy.

As the clock struck 6 p.m., Lemon Grove Mayor Racquel Vasquez lit the bonfire. Sparks flew and flames lit up Civic Center park. Families and friends gathered around the fire in blankets and picnic chairs. Toasty hot chocolate and coffee warmed them up.

“Hearing the sound of the boom and then the fire igniting, it was just amazing,” said Vasquez. Like many, the lighting of the bonfire was the mayor’s favorite part of the night. “It is so wonderful to see my family, friends and community here celebrating together.”

This annual Lemon Grove Bonfire proved to be a community effort. Police officers, firefighters, musicians and community groups all put in their parts to make it a success and enjoyable night for those who attended.

“It’s free, it’s family friendly, everything about it is charming and that’s why we love it.” said Ofield.

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