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Tree Lighting, Trolley Debut Help Santa Maria Usher in Holidays

Rain holds off as Friday night event kicks off the Christmas season

With technology tossing in a little drama and Mother Nature postponing the rain, the Santa Maria Christmas tree lighting ceremony attracted community leaders and others to the corner of Broadway and Cook Street on Friday night. 

The People for Leisure And Youth, Inc. (PLAY, Inc.) and the Santa Maria Recreation and Parks Department hosted the festivities, which included hot cocoa, cookies and Christmas carolers. Additionally, Santa Claus posed for multiple pictures.

Annika Juul-Borre, 8, flipped the switch to light up the tree — on the third countdown after elves fixed the glitch.

The small girl suffers from medulloblastoma, which is a type of brain tumor most commonly found in children. A brain tumor occurs when normal cells in the brain change and form into a mass, and medulloblastoma starts in the back of the brain.  

While Santa’s helpers — also known as the Santa Maria Public Works Department staff — worked to solve the technological problems, officials heralded the arrival of the Downtown Trolley to serve as a holiday shopping shuttle.

The city acquired two trolleys to add to its transit fleet.

“The Downtown Trolley is reminiscent of the city’s past trolley service that operated over a century ago,” said Austin O’Dell, the city transit manager.

The Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce partnered with the city for the trolleys, and the business organization’s leader the organization hopes to see it full while traveling to the shopping centers.

“This is going to be a really neat addition to our community,” said Glenn Morris, chamber president and chief executive office. “I think everybody really understands the importance of supporting our local shops, shopping in the community. One of the ways to make that happen is to make it easy for people to get where they want to go.”

Santa Maria's Christmas tree was lighted Friday night, kicking off the holiday season. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

After an appearance in the Santa Maria Parade of Lights on Saturday night, the colorful 28-passenger trolley will begin transporting shoppers on Sunday. 

“I think it’s going to be used all the time,” Mayor Alice Patino said.

For an introductory regular fare of 25 cents — and 10 cents for seniors, people with disabilities and those with Medicare — riders can take the red trolley equipped with authentic bell to multiple downtown shopping centers.

The holiday shopping shuttle is a temporary service with the purpose of instilling interest from the downtown business community that will assist the city transit staff in designing a permanent service that will benefit downtown Santa Maria.

Transit staff will partner with downtown merchants and with the Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce.

The holiday shopping shuttle service will operate with eight designated trolley stops approximately every 15 to 20 minutes.

Major destinations are the Santa Maria Town Center (the mall) and Town Center West, plus shopping centers with JC Penney, Ross Dress for Less, Panera Bread, Walmart and Best Buy, Target, and Broadway Plaza.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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