By Nicole Vermeer
If you go to Jack London Square during the month of December, you may be surprised to see snowflakes filling the air around you.
No, it's not climate change; you are actually witnessing one of the many features that will be part of the annual holiday festivities at "The Square."
The kickoff tree lighting event is happening on this Friday, Nov. 30.
“It will be an exciting evening, filled with a potpourri of activities that will be delightful for families,” Linda Meyer, marketing director for the Square, said.
The “snow” is an artificial creation that is 90 percent water - each flake dissipates in 90 seconds, minimizing the environmental impact (and eliminating the chance of snowball fights).
But there will be other North Pole imports, besides the snow.
One is a pair of live reindeer in the petting area from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m., on the night of the tree lighting. If you’re concerned about interacting with them, Meyer said last year’s reindeer were “sweet as can be.” She also made sure to add that they were well-loved and cared for.
For the first time, Santa will be available for photos at the Bay Voyager boat tour offices, at 423 Water St. There also will be "humorous and educational" holiday scenes with face-sized holes to look through and take pictures with, so don’t worry about getting that perfect holiday snapshot.
The main attraction of course will be the 57-foot tall Mount Shasta fir tree, bedecked with over 5,000 lights that will be lit throughout the month of December. The tree will be introduced by Miss California 2012, Natalie Pack. Other celebrity guests include Radio Disney star Amber Lily, pop singer Emme and “rising star” Jeremy Thurber. The fact that this writer has never heard of any of these performers means they will be an absolute hit with the tween set.
The tree lighting event also is a sneak preview of 13th America’s Children’s Holiday parade. There will be several floats and different characters roaming the Square, interacting with the holiday revelers. A strolling puppet theater also will be there.
Most of the night's activities will be pretty mainstream by Oakland standards, but for the first time local shops will be making a splash. East Bay nonprofit Wardrobe for Opportunity will be hosting the “Holiday Pop Up!” where some of Oakland’s many indie merchandisers will be hawking their goods for the crowds. There will be clothing, accessories, home decor and art pieces, all ready to be wrapped up and gifted. Meyer also mentioned that they hope attendees will end up at one of Jack London’s many restaurants. The organization lists Haven, Bocanova and Miss Pearl’s as places to try, among others.
The Alameda County Community Food Bank and the city of Oakland’s toy drive will benefit from this event. Visitors are encouraged to bring cans of food or toys to donate.
If you’re feeling slightly overwhelmed because of how many things will be going on, it’s okay. The Jack London Square marketing team expects about 6,000 to 8,000 people to fill the square area Friday night.
“It’s jam-packed ... it’s going to be busy,” Meyer said, “But especially if the weather keeps cooperating, it’s going to be a great event.”