SAN FRANCISCO – The San Francisco Recreation and Park Department hosted the 86th Holiday Tree Lighting on December 3rd starting at 4PM at John McLaren Lodge located at the east entrance of Golden Gate Park. There were many free activities including carnival rides, cookie factory, arts and crafts for kids, visit from Santa, music, and live entrainment. Santa arrived at the Lodge, followed by the official Tree Lighting ceremony which began at 6:00PM. At the end of the event, kids and families headed to Off-the-Grid Food Trucks that were located nearby the Lodge where everyone enjoyed creative and gourmet meals outdoors.
The 130-year-old official City Tree, adorned with more than 550 multi-colored lights surrounded by a decorated train, is a Monterey Cypress that was planted by the City’s first park superintendent, John McLaren.
“In 1929, John McLaren began the tradition of lighting trees along a mile stretch of Fell Street leading to the City Tree in front of his home, McLaren Lodge in Golden Gate Park,” said Phil Ginsburg, SF Rec & Park General Manager. “We are proud to continue this heartwarming family tradition and celebrate the holiday season with our fellow San Franciscans.”
Throughout the event, there were performances by the music programs and school bands from the San Francisco Unified School District schools, as well as live entertainment by a variety of local artists and organizations. This year’s holiday train pays homage to women and girls in sports. From Team USA’s victory at the Women’s World Cup earlier this year, to female athletes like Victoria Manalo Draves, Helen Wills Moody, and Alice Marble for whom local parks and tennis courts are named, and local athletes like Kristi Yamaguchi, Jennifer Azzi, Summer Sanders and Brandi Chastain, these women have inspired us all and inspired our athletes of tomorrow.
SF Rec & Park’s all-girl baseball team, the SF Bay Sox, and the SF Rebels, an all-girl basketball team, joined together to light up the Holiday Tree.
SF Rebels, a basketball team for 4th to 8th grade girls, is based at Mission Recreation Center which has been involved in Amateur Athletic Union girls basketball for almost thirty years. And the SF Bay Sox, a baseball team for girls 11 to 13-years-old and coached by SF Rec & Park staff, have played on Junior Giants and SF Youth Baseball League (SFYBL); many have also played on their middle school boy’s baseball teams. The team recently participated in an all-girls national tournament hosted by Baseball for All, where they competed against other all-girls baseball teams around the nation. Members of the original 1942 All-American Girls Professional Baseball League were also at the tournament encouraging girls participating in baseball.
Around the City Tree, there was the North Pole Café for warm refreshments, Santa’s Workshop for arts and crafts, and the Imagination Playground for games and more. In addition, SF Rec & Park in partnership with the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) offered the Operation Dream Toy Drive, all donated toys went to children and families that reside in the City’s public housing.
The free event is generously sponsored by Zynga.org and Kaiser Permanente.
The 86th annual Holiday Tree Lighting is part of SF Rec & Park’s overall efforts to better serve the diverse families of San Francisco. By hosting seasonal citywide family events including Eggstravaganza in spring, Play Day on the Green in summer, Scaregrove in the fall, and Holiday Tree Lighting in winter, SF Rec & Park makes San Francisco a friendlier place for children and families. For more information about SF Rec & Park please visit www.sfrecpark.org .