Santee lights up for the holidays

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Santa Claus paid an early visit to East County, spending the evening at Santee’s Trolley Square to be on hand for firing up lights on the shopping mall’s centerpiece Christmas tree. The festive gathering, known as the Santee Holiday Lighting Celebration, was co-sponsored by the City of Santee and Waste Management, Inc on Nov. 21. Santee Mayor Randy Voepel was there to emcee the brief official ceremonies, all in purpose to build community spirit.

Santa Claus paid an early visit to East County, spending the evening at Santee’s Trolley Square to be on hand for firing up lights on the shopping mall’s centerpiece Christmas tree. The festive gathering, known as the Santee Holiday Lighting Celebration, was co-sponsored by the City of Santee and Waste Management, Inc on Nov. 21. Santee Mayor Randy Voepel was there to emcee the brief official ceremonies, all in purpose to build community spirit.

Highlight of the celebration was lighting of the 20-foot Christmas tree in the lower courtyard area, accompanied by fireworks. Musicians entertained the waiting crowd with zydeco and jug band dance tunes, which had even the smallest children rocking around the tree. 

Carolers in turn-of-the-century garb wandered the area’s grounds during the three-hour event. Attendees at the family-geared festivities could take rides around the mall’s parking lot in decorated horse-drawn carriages. Children could get temporary Christmas tattoos at one booth, and photos with Santa at another.

A snow hill with sled riding was a new feature for this year’s annual celebration kicking off the season of holiday warmth in Santee. Members of the recently formed Rise City Church sponsored and constructed the snowfield.

“We asked how could we do something fun and different for Santee residents, giving them a white Christmas,” said Pastor Brandon Grant. “I am from Illinois, and I miss the snow. We thought this would be something to share, especially with kids like my four-year-old daughter and two-year-old son.

 The church, around a year old itself, has a congregation numbering 300. “This has been an experience of sweat and snow,” Grant continued, describing the work leveling the snow hill’s sledding surface as melting and footprints were taking inevitable toll on the slide ride. The church, meeting regularly at Hill Creek School, and will host special Christmas Eve services at Trolley Square.

“I am excited to be pastor of a new church making a difference in Jesus’ name,” Grant said.

The mall’s businesses reported significant upticks in foot traffic and sales. Several of the restaurants were packed with dining families.

Santee resident Eugene Michonski was there with his son, Thomas.

“This is my first time here. I’ve lived in Santee since 2001, and I didn’t know about it until this year,” he said. “This is good for Santee. A lot of people are out with their kids, and this is good for the businesses and community organizations, a way to get out with the family and play in the snow.”