OLYMPIA - Santa sightings and the sounds of Christmas music in downtown Olympia on Sunday could only mean one thing: The holidays are here.
People packed several city blocks near Sylvester State Park for Downtown for the Holidays, a festival put on by the Olympia Downtown Association. The event kicked off the season in grand fashion with festivities, including wagon rides, a holiday parade and a tree-lighting ceremony in the park.
Between sipping hot coffee, people took part in holiday crafts and free horse-drawn wagon rides through the city.
Later in the afternoon, crowds bundled in hats and jackets lined the sidewalk of Capitol Way between the Olympia Farmers Market and Sylvester Park to watch the holiday parade.
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Many people staked out spots well before the parade began, including friends Cassie Jenson and Tess Sharp. Gripping peppermint mochas, both said seeing the sales in downtown shops and decorations help put them in the holiday spirit – and the parade didn’t hurt, either.
“I’ve always liked downtown parades,” Sharp said.
Watching the Olympia Highlander Pipes and Drums march down the street playing “Jingle Bells,” Annie Cubberly said the parade and festivities help show off community spirit and pride.
“I love things that are for families,” she said.
Other parade entries included motorcycle drill teams and the Girl Scouts.
For many children, Sunday was all about bending the ear of a bearded man in a red suit. Santa took time out of his busy schedule to drop in at the Urban Onion to listen to children’s Christmas wish lists and pose for pictures.
One of those kids was 5-year-old Tristan Winecka, who asked Santa for a Playmobil castle and a Zhu Zhu Pet. With a hot chocolate in hand, Winecka could barely hold back his excitement for the parade.
His mother, Amy Hacker-Winecka, said she’s been taking Tristan to the festival to see Santa since he was a baby.
“It’s one of our favorite weekends in Olympia,” she said.
Hacker-Winecka also noted that the festival is a great way to get people downtown to do their holiday shopping.
Live holiday music also filled Olympia streets with lyrics and melodies of the season. The Kids in Koncert and choirs from First Christian Church and Capital High School also performed throughout the city. The evening concluded with the lighting of the holiday tree at Sylvester State Park.
Sunday’s festivities were just the beginning for what will be a month of holiday-themed events in downtown Olympia.