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31 years of Christmas Cheer

Mission holds annual tree lighting celebration

For Ashley Blanco and her sister Sherry, the lights shining at Leo Peña Placita Park last weekend spark memories and highlight the spirit of Christmas.
Last Friday and Saturday (Nov. 22 and 23), Mission held the 31st annual Christmas Tree Lighting. For the first time this year the city extended activities over two days, packing them with meet and greets, photo opportunities, an array of decorative lights and inflatables, live performances, local food vendors and the signature Christmas tree lit with every color.

Friday evening, Mayor Armando O’caña spoke on the importance of celebrating the season of giving.

“As we light up the city of Mission we light up our hearts also,” O’caña said. “We look forward to December 25 when our creator Jesus Christ will come and have a birthday celebration that we call Christmas.”

The crowds attending the event were able to explore the park and see all the city had to offer. Council members Ruben Plata and Beto Vela thanked residents for making it out to the park to celebrate the reason for the season.

“We celebrate the birth of our savior Jesus Christ,” Plata said. “Please continue with the Christmas Christian spirit throughout the year, and may God bless you.”

City Manager Randy Perez said it was a special night due not only to nice weather, but also the nature of community celebration.

“It’s beautiful that we’re going into this Thanksgiving and holiday season,” Perez said. “We continue praying that God continue blessing our great city of Mission.”

Perez specifically thanked the city’s Parks and Recreation Department for the work they put in to make the event a success.

“They have worked tirelessly to put together this event and organize all the entertainment, but also decorating this beautiful park,” Perez said. “I want to thank them for the wonderful job they do on a daily basis, not only for putting on events throughout the city, but for our parks.”

For Ashley and her sister and mother, the annual Christmas Tree Lighting is an event they have only missed once or twice. Ashley’s favorite part is the brightness conjured by the lights.

“[I like] the colors, there’s a lot of color” Blanco said, adding that the event has grown over time. “There are a lot more people [this year].”

This year included a visit from Santa Claus himself on Friday, and the next day the infamous Grinch who stole Christmas made an appearance and co-hosted the event. Mission also included large living Christmas cards, which attendees were able to pose in front of for even more holiday photos.

As is tradition, the Mission Crime Stoppers raffled about 70 bicycles and several toys to children attending the two-day event.

This article originally appeared in the Friday Nov. 29, 2019 issue of the Progress Times.

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