Downtown Elsinore unwraps Christmas welcome


Last updated 12/8/2006 at Noon

The Lake Elsinore Winterfest is a family tradition 8-year-old resident Ethan Keigwin anticipates each year to start off the holiday season by tossing a few snowballs, a rare opportunity in the temperate valleys of Southern California. Waiting in line for his turn to fire away in the snow play area on a comfortable evening December 1, Ethan, his mom Kim and his 6-year-old brother Devin were among the estimated 5,000 yuletide revelers enjoying the winter wonderland scene in downtown Lake Elsinore.

“We’ve come almost every year since [the boys] were born,” said Kim.

It was a postcard-perfect setting with all of the seasonal accoutrements – Main Street was decked out with poinsettias, a sparkling Christmas tree and Santa’s backup sleigh for photo opportunities while children sped down two sledding hills and tossed snowballs in the snow play area carved out of 30 tons of snow. Shoppers browsed through the variety of quaint antique, herb, book and novelty shops while diners packed both new and established restaurants. Street vendors hawked everything from kettle corn to the twinkling Santa hats decorating the heads of a large number of passersby.

City Recreation and Tourism Manager Teri Fazzio was pleased with the evening’s turnout. “It’s been growing every year,” she said by phone interview on Monday of the huge numbers of visitors to Main Street for the celebration. “It’s really for our residents, and as the city grows with all of the new houses, it gets bigger every year.”

As close runners-up to the popularity of Ol’ Saint Nick, who arrived via local Fire Station #10 fire engine transport to greet his eager fans, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman made the rounds in the crowd. Elsinore High School sophomores Emilia Rosales, 18, and Monique Estrada, 16, were chalking up a few hours as Frosty’s crowd-pleasing entourage. “Kids came up and were hugging [Frosty],” said his alter-ego Rosales afterward. “They wanted to meet [him].”

During their community service stint, both students were waiting to fold up chairs in the downtown Cultural Center after the last performance. The Winterfest entertainment program featured community recreation class exhibitions such as acoustic guitar with John Carlson, belly dancing with Kirsten King, acting for youth with Precious Lee, Lake Elsinore Fu-San Su with Chris Kuehl and the Ballet Folklorico dancers taught by Lorena Hancock.

It was a good jumpstart into the holiday spirit, the first-time volunteers agreed. “I like to see all the happy little kids,” said Estrada when she was asked what the best part of the evening was.

Standing in line for Santa, the Zavala family of Lake Elsinore decided that afternoon to check out Winterfest for the first time. Sisters Gaby, 18, and Erica, 19, brought siblings Lily, 9, and George, 10, both students at Rice Canyon Elementary school, and littlest brother Junior, 1 ½. Both Lily and George were asking Santa for bikes. Junior practiced blowing kisses while in line. The littlest Zavala was going to ask Santa for “lots of toys,” said Erica.

More Lake Elsinore

Christmas Events

• December 9 – Breakfast with Santa. Fire Station #10, 8:30 a.m. Call (951) 245-0442 for more information. THIS EVENT IS SOLD OUT.

• December 9 – Lake Elsinore Historical Society (LEHS) Annual Holiday Home Tour featuring the Machado Adobe and seasonally decorated homes in the city. 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tickets, $20, on sale for the self-guided tour at the LEHS Main Street Museum, 106 South Main Street; Remember When, 169 North Main Street; and Mrs. 144, 201 West Graham Avenue. Refreshments served at the Main Street Museum. Call (951) 678-1537 for more information.


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