Santa Claus paid a visit to the children at the annual tree lighting ceremony hosted by the South Pasadena Chamber of Commerce. Photo by Henk Friezer

In spite of the heavy rain on Thursday, the South Pasadena Chamber of Commerce upheld the holiday spirit by hosting the annual tree lighting ceremony at the local music center.

Instead of being held at the South Pasadena Farmers Market this year, the event was relocated to the South Pasadena Music Center & Conservatory (SPMCC) on Mission Street. Originally founded by Walter Zooi, a professional musician and former faculty member at the University of Southern California, SPMCC has been a part of the South Pasadena community for over 13 years. Now owned by Evelyn and Tim Jones, SPMCC continues the tradition of excellence in music instruction, providing private and group lessons since its inception.

Chamber’s Laurie Wheeler presides over ceremony.

The evening featured entertainment by students and faculty of the Music Center, and included performances on the piano, a guitar trio, numerous holiday classics such as “Silent Night,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “Jingle Bells,” a special improvised song by teacher Jonathan Lucas, and a series of songs by the band That’s the Name, which is made up of several students from the Conservatory.

“We arranged the event here because of the rain, and South Pasadena Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Laurie Wheeler is just great,” said Michael Campagna, the Creative Director at SPMCC. “It saved the day because all of our kids and teachers have been rehearsing like crazy. I’m so happy to be here, it’s been a life-changing experience for me. I’ve been a professional musician since I was 16, and teaching music to children has been one of the most fulfilling and healing experiences of my life. You help them and it heals you. This school is full of love for these students. We love participating in community events like tonight, as well as the Arts Crawl and the Eclectic Music Festival.”

Special guests who participated in the tree lighting included State Senator Anthony Portantino, City of South Pasadena Mayor Dr. Richard Schneider, Chamber of Commerce Chairperson Sam Fernandez, Hector Rodriguez with Assemblymember Chris Holden’s office, and interim Police Chief Brian Solinsky, who was accompanied by several members of the South Pasadena Police Force.

Outgoing South Pasadena Mayor Dr. Richard Schneider enjoys the moment at the annual Chamber of Commerce tree lighting cermeony. Photos by Henk Friezer

”Just think if we made more music and wrote more poetry, how much better society would be,” Portantino said to the crowd. “I’m here to celebrate the holidays with South Pasadena, and I also want to give a shout-out to Laurie Wheeler, who was recognized yesterday as one of the top businesswomen for 2018. I just love South Pasadena—we have partnered with the community for so many wonderful things. Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and have a wonderful and safe holiday and New Year’s. Congratulations on this wonderful event even though the weather didn’t cooperate!”

Added Mayor Schneider, “Despite the rain, the Christmas spirit survives, and we had a very lovely lighting of a small tree. It was all improvised—the whole ceremony was moved indoors, some of the musicians improvised songs, and the safety personnel are here improvising. But most important, everyone is happy.”

Guests enjoyed hot cider and a selection of tasty cookies and sweet treats, while SmileHaus Orthodontics provided various goodies and crafts. There was also a special appearance by Santa Claus, who worked his magic and brought smiles to children’s faces while posing for pictures, in addition to participating in the tree lighting countdown.

“Anytime you can get children playing music, especially during the holiday season, that is Christmas magic,” said Santa Claus. “I’m absolutely thrilled to be here. We got rained out last Thursday, but tonight we did the tree lighting, we took pictures, and now we’re all hanging out for the rest of the evening and enjoying the holiday music. Merry Christmas and happy holidays!”

Kamala Kirk
Author

Kamala Kirk is a contributing writer for the South Pasadena Review, San Marino Tribune and The Quarterly Magazine. Kamala formerly served as Managing Editor of Beauty Launchpad Magazine, West Coast Editor of American Salon Magazine, and Digital Editor for E! Online. A native of Hermosa Beach, California, she is a proud USC Trojan and pug mom to Wrigley the Pug (@pugofpasadena).

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