Downtown Alameda celebrated the start of the 2023 holiday season on Saturday, December 2, with its first-ever Winter Market on Central Avenue between Park and Oak streets. The downtown event, which ran from noon to 8 p.m., featured local vendors, music, food, and drink.
Miriam Solano has been crafting since she was five years old. Growing up in Mexico, the artist tried to keep busy. “In a Mexican household, if you’re bored, you don’t say it because then you’ll have to clean,” she told the Alameda Post. Today, the Bay Farm resident owns Casa of Arts, where she sells handmade items such as coasters, reusable paper towels, hand warmers, scarves, aprons, and bowl cozies. She said she was happy to be at Alameda’s inaugural Winter Market.
Lauren Merian-Klein of Alameda Candle Company was also set up at the market with her array of soy candles named after Alameda places and people. She has been pouring candles for a while for fun, but she decided to turn the hobby into a business during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, she said. “It’s nice to be out here with the music playing,” she told the Post.
Merian-Klein’s booth was one of the closest to the stage in front of Alameda Theatre and Cineplex. On the bill was Music Mud Daddy, The Cable Brigade, Academy of Alameda Jazz Ensemble, Brass Ackwards, and The Nep-Tunes.
Next to the stage, market goers could enjoy tea, hot chocolate, and treats from Julie’s Coffee & Tea Garden or a roll from Cousins Maine Lobster. A little further down the road, those over 21 could visit the drink tent for some seasonal beer, wine, and Glühwein (spicy mulled red wine).
Other entrepreneurs and vendors of the market included: All Good Living, Trudy, Toss and Throws, Honour Brand Clothing, Trifoxatops, Face + Body Studio, Primrose Threads, Magpie & Thorn, Doug Rubenstein Pottery, and That’s My Jam Company.
Just after sunset, hundreds gathered in front of City Hall ahead of the Winter Lights Celebration, undeterred by the steady drizzle that had begun to fall.
This year’s event featured a lighted peace sign and Alameda logo, a menorah, and a large Christmas tree adorned with colorful lights and Alameda-themed ornaments depicting sailboats, anchors, and street names. A Kwanzaa kinara has been commissioned and is slated to debut at next year’s celebration.
As part of an effort to reimagine community events in June 2021, City Council discontinued the annual Mayor’s Tree Lighting Ceremony, suggesting that it focused “primarily on one religion” and did not “represent or include everyone in our community.” Following public outcry last December, Council reinstated the event and directed City staff to launch a survey and community listening sessions to gather feedback. Respondents overwhelmingly backed the return of a celebration that would feature symbols representing additional faiths and backgrounds.
The support and excitement were clear on the faces of attendees on Saturday evening as they eagerly awaited the ceremony.
Rocking bright red Christmas tree glasses, local resident Jen brought along her two young daughters. “We’ve been living here for 10 years and we’ve never made it, so I blocked time off our calendar this year,” she said. “It’s super fun to see all of the lights!”
“I love Alameda!” said Alisha, who lives within walking distance of City Hall. “It’s incredible to see the love and all the families here.”
At 5:30 p.m., Mayor Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft kicked off the celebration.
“We gather here today to celebrate the light of the season, and to bring light to the darkness,” she remarked, before leading the crowd in a countdown. The happy group cheered as the lights were turned on, illuminating the pavement in a dazzling display of color.
Led by director Tyra Cable, the Alameda High School Symphonic Band performed a lively medley of holiday classics, including “O Christmas Tree,” “Baby It’s Cold Outside,” “Frosty the Snowman,” “Feliz Navidad,” and more. The crowd danced and sang along while parents urged their children to pose for pictures in front of the tree and signs.
As the Tap Dancing Christmas Trees—recently back from performing in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade in New York City—danced onto center stage, people clambered up the steps of City Hall for a better view. The brightly lit Trees mesmerized the audience with their choreographed dance number.
“It’s very exciting!” said seven-year-old Soleil. “I watched the whole entire Thanksgiving Parade for them.”
The crowd dispersed as the celebration ended, with folks making their way toward Park Street for the Winter Market and the Hot Cocoa Stroll. Up and down the commercial corridor, businesses like Hobnob, Twirl, and Park Social threw open their doors and enticed customers inside with a steaming cup of hot chocolate. It was clear that many shoppers were heeding the Mayor’s call: “Shop local this holiday, and all year long!”