The City of Perris officially welcomed in the holiday season Nov. 28 when Mayor Daryl Busch and other elected officials threw the ceremonial switch to light the towering Christmas tree at the City Hall Campus.
Members of the City Council took to the stage and led the audience in counting down the seconds until the tree lights burst into color.
A crowd of hundreds cheered the 28th annual tree lighting but that was only the beginning of an evening of festivities and entertainment. Santa Claus arrived atop a City of Perris fire engine, the audience was treated to holiday snacks and the kids got an up-close look at goats and llamas in a petting zoo.
Mayor Busch, Mayor Pro-Tem Tonya Burke, City Councilwoman Rita Rogers, City Councilman-elect Mark Yarbrough, City Manager Richard Belmudez and Planning Commissioner Brady McCarron led the crowd in their rendition of “Jingle Bells.” The bulk of the entertainment came from a series of songs and dance routines performed by students from area schools.
Chilly temperatures could not dampen the enthusiasm of audience or participants.
“This is a great event, one that has always been successful and one that we look forward to every year,” Busch said. “We appreciate the schools and our local churches for supporting this effort. It’s always a thrill to turn on the lights and join in on the celebration.”
Mayor Pro-Tem Burke said the tree lighting ceremony kicks off the holiday season and leaves her feeling “warm and toasty.”
“It gives you the sense that we’re kicking off Christmas,” Burke said. “I am looking forward to the entertainment. It is so great that we can do this as a City.”
Rogers said that following Thanksgiving, she always looks forward to celebrating “the next great holiday, which is Christmas.”
“It’s always great that we hear the children and carolers sing Christmas songs,” she said. “On behalf of my entire family we celebrate with all the citizens of the City of Perris the season of Christmas!”
Yarbrough told the audience who turned out for the show to enjoy the festivities and the feeling the night engendered.
“This is your night,” he said. “We live in literally the heart of Southern California where we can see the snow in the mountains and visit it whenever we want. Have a great time tonight and best wishes for a wonderful Christmas.”
The entertainment included singing performances from Alex Herrera and Madison Mitchell, both 11, and the Paloma Valley High School Polynesian Dancers. Alex and Madison performed in the recent “Perris Got Talent” competition and scored well. The dance group has taken part in several City events.
Alex sang “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” in Spanish. He said he enjoys singing before a live audience.
“I see people smiling and that makes me happy,” he said.
Madison performed “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” and “Silent Night.” Madison said she has taken part in beauty pageants, modeling contests and singing competitions.
“I’m excited,” she said. “This is where I grew up. I want to rock the stage. I love the City of Perris and I am thankful they’ve provided me with the opportunity to sing.”
Monica Martin, the advisor to Paloma Valley High School’s Polynesian Club, said the teen-agers love performing in Perris. They took part in the Harvest Festival in October and the Veterans Day Parade in November. For the Tree Lighting Program, they performed a “Hula auana” (a contemporary hula) and a Tahitian “Christmas Otea" (Tahitian group dance.)
Martin said the Polynesian Club was founded a decade ago and practices Hawaiian, Tahitian, Samoan and Maori (New Zealand) dances.
“The kids are great,” Martin said. “They show great passion for their work. We love to perform and we love being invited to take part in City of Perris events.”