Azusa welcomes winter with annual festival, tree lighting

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Azusa High School student and cheerleader Ashley Fermia holds a strawberry shortcake in a jar. Photo credit: Annie Z. Yu

The City of Azusa hosted its annual Winter Family Fiesta and Holiday Tree Lighting ceremony at City Hall amid sunny, mid-70s degree weather Sunday afternoon, ushering in a Christmas spirit at the end of Thanksgiving weekend.

Approximately 2,500 to 3,000 people attended the event throughout the day, according to Stephanie Fultz, a senior recreation leader and project coordinator for Azusa’s Recreation & Family Services Department.

Fultz, who coordinated the past five Winter Family Fiestas, said she began reaching out to potential sponsors in July and started booking activities in August.

“Last year it rained … This year it’s nice and warm just like southern California Christmases are,” she said. “It’s really neat. We’re able to have snow and ice in December, in 75 degree weather.”

The festival featured many free activities such as crafts, games, a petting zoo, live entertainment and a snow area for children to play in. Festival attendees also visited multiple boutiques filled with handmade goods, tents selling food such as bacon-wrapped hotdogs and booths that offered services such as face painting for $5.

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Azusa resident Karon Leyba tries a festive headband on her daughter, 4-month-old Elise, before deciding to buy it. Photo credit: Annie Z. Yu

“The festival really puts everyone in the mood to start the season off,” said Ruby Garcia, who had a tent set up with her crafts for sale. “It looks really nice.”

Garcia has been making crafts for more than 30 years and was selling bottle decorations, custom night lights made out of glass blocks and other “little odds and ends.”

Many vendors sold edible goodies. Ashley Fermia, a student at Azusa High School on their Aztec Cheer Squad, helped her squad sell cocoa mix, strawberry shortcake, pound cakes, rice krispy treats and “s’mores in a cup.” Many of the treats were packaged in mason jars with decorative ribbons and tags.

“We’re here to promote our school, and just for fun,” she said. “I think it’s good experience. It’s fun, and it’s good to have community involvement.”

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Azusa High School’s cheerleading squad sold homemade edible treats, such as these decorated mason jars filled with strawberry shortcake ingredients. Photo credit: Annie Z. Yu

The list of live entertainers included local dance groups, cheer teams and high school choirs and jazz bands, along with an appearance by Santa Claus just before the tree lighting ceremony.

“This is something very positive that the city is doing,” said Marisol Marquez, who performed a Flamenco dance with La Sol Flamenco.

In between shopping, eating and listening to or watching live entertainment, children played with real snow and lined up to take turns at a sled riding station. There was also an ice skating rink, the base of which was actually made up of synthetic polymer with a silicone base sprayed on top. It was “basically plastic,” according to one employee, and was less slippery and led to fewer falls and injuries.

“It’s portable and it doesn’t have to be cold,” said Eric Kredatus, who works for BH Skating and was in charge of the rink.

Daniel Herrera has lived in Azusa since 1988 but visited the festival for the first time this year with his three children. His 9-year-old daughter Lauren said the snowy sled-sliding activity was her favorite.

“They like to come every year,” he said of his kids, who usually come with his wife. “I think it’s great for the kids — they love it.”

Azusa mayor Joseph Rocha also enjoyed the event and said it was great because it encourages families to come together.

“Lots of people come every year because … it’s about creating memories with your kids,” he said. “That’s what Azusa’s about — bringing people [together] to create community.“

Rocha said one of his favorite events this year was the horse-pulled wagon ride, which he never had a chance to do in previous years.

“Usually the line’s too long,” he said, laughing. “But I was here really early this year.”

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