Thousands of locals got into the spirit of the holidays on Saturday at the annual Winterfest in Uptown Yucaipa.
“The attendance at the last full Winterfest event (2015) was approximately 5,000 to 6,000, so this year’s estimated attendance of 8,500 makes it the highest of any past events,” said Paul Toomey, Director of Community Development. “The success of the event sure benefited from the warm weather and everyone was smiling and having fun.”
Despite the unseasonably high temperatures, the uptown area near the California Street roundabout was turned into a Winter Wonderland, with snow sledding, ice skating, ornament decorating and lots of vendors and food booths.
Local law enforcement officials reported there were no arrests or incidents during the seven-hour event.
Little Chucky Yonkman couldn’t contain his glee as he raced down the sledding hill. He laughed most of the way, then announced to his family, “I crashed!” at the end of the run. He had not. He’d been caught by one of the many volunteers. Chucky jumped up and was ready to go again, with his sister Harper.
“They’ve seen snow once before at my in-laws in Michigan,” said their mom Tracie Yonkman, who was there with her parents Kelly and Greg Gossett, of Yucaipa. “But this is their first time sledding.”
Another brother and sister, Brody and Kara Rice, spent time in the Kids Zone creating Christmas ornaments.
“I’m going to make it for grandma’s tree,” Kara said, as she decorated her gold ornament with a black marker.
Brody’s ornament was blue. “It’s for my family,” he said, adding they hadn’t put up their tree yet but they would soon.
Friends Ethan Shiffer and Logan Livingston also created ornaments, a popular spot at Winterfest.
“I’m making this for my tree,” Ethan said.
“I’m making this for my mom,” Logan said.
A little later in the evening, Mayor Dick Riddell took the stage at the California Street roundabout for the traditional lighting of the tree; and hundreds on Yuciapians surrounded the California Street roundabout.
“Warmest wishes for a happy and prosperous holiday season. We’re excited to kick off the holidays. On behalf of Yucaipa’s city council, I’d like to extend my warmest wishes to you all for the holiday season and I wish everyone a prosperous new year” Riddell said, before the sound went out.
After a couple minutes when the sound had been fixed, Riddell said, “Let’s get started. Santa, take it over.”
Santa Claus led the crowd in a countdown, and the tree was lit as applause and cheers rang out for the over 8,000 attendees. Snow fluttered out of machines near the roundabout to the delight of the crowd, especially children, who ran over to the various areas to gather snowflakes or flutters in their hands and hair.
When Mayor Riddell exited the stage, Yucaipa Fire and Police Departments sounded off their sirens and paraded down Yucaipa Boulevard; causing quite a spectacle.
“My kids loved the fire engines, this entire ceremony is so neat. This has been a fun way to kick off the Christmas season,” said Mandy Wanger, Yucaipa resident.
Councilmembers Denise Allen, David Avila, Bobby Duncan and Mayor Pro tem Greg Bogh were also at the ceremony, bringing cheer and kicking off the holidays in the best way possible.
Throughout the festivities, three bands took the stage and gave rocking performances; although some seemed entertained with the karaoke-like bands, others seemed unimpressed. DaBand Rocks, a classic 1950s rock band, was first to perform, followed by Snowfall, a pop jazz caroling group and the Highland Music Company were last to take the stage, featuring what seemed to be a Elvis inspired group.
Holiday classics, such as “Santa Claus,” “Rockin Around the Christmas Tree,” and “Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer” were just a few cover songs performed by the bands.
Attendees could be seen dancing in front of the stage, singing along to the music.
“I love live music and I really love Christmas music. It’s the perfect mix,” said Yucaipa local Margie Wood.