Olympia proclaims holidays here

OLYMPIA - Downtown streets were lined with families and people sporting Santa hats and the occasional T-shirt, as a crowd gathered Sunday for Downtown for the Holidays, the traditional downtown Olympia kickoff to the holiday season.

The annual event, which is well into its second decade, featured many community groups in a holiday parade, holiday music from Kids in Koncert, photos with Santa Claus, and a tree-lighting ceremony in Sylvester Park, which served as a pre-parade playground with kids running around in the fallen leaves.

“It’s wonderful weather,” said Susan Katz of Lacey, who was attending the parade for the first time with her husband, David, and children, Elizabeth, 2 years, and Andrew, 21/2 months.

The afternoon’s agenda included a picture with Santa Claus.

“This is the first year that we’ve had a child old enough to appreciate it,” Susan Katz said. “We haven’t established any traditions with her yet, but I love Christmas and I’ll love to share that with her.”

The downtown event has grown from past years, said Olympia Downtown Association executive director Connie Lorenz.

She said there is a coordinated effort to attract people downtown through December.

“We’re not like a mall where we can say, ‘You have to be open from this time to this time,’ ” Lorenz said. “Downtown business owners... they are independent entrepreneurs and they set their own hours,” she said.

Downtown holiday events will take place Saturdays from about noon to 6 p.m., she said, with a standing opportunity to take Santa photos at Studio Four 18 at 418 Washington Street, holiday street performers, and an electric trolley. The events are funded by a Parking Business Improvement Area, an organization that assesses downtown businesses.

“The mass majority of the businesses get into the spirit of it, they get their displays ready and get ready for the holidays,” she added.

Karen and Steven Berger of Tenino said that events like the parade bring their family to downtown Olympia. They and their daughter, Elizabeth, 10, brought Santa hats and were ready for the parade.

“We love downtown,” Steven Berger said. “We come for ArtsWalk, Procession (of the Species).”

“We lived elsewhere for five years, and we’ve been back for five years,” Karen Berger said. “We’re getting our feel back for the area.”

Venice Buhain: 360-754-5445