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It’s Christmas time in the city

Families gather to celebrate the start of the holiday season at 23rd annual ceremony

Posted: December 7, 2008 8:02 p.m.
Updated: December 8, 2008 4:30 a.m.

The Community Tree Lighting ceremony at Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital lit up the faces of kids big and small Sunday evening.

Eleven-year-old Drew Sifers was stunned as he looked at the big glowing tree with red and silver ornaments dangling from the branches.

"It was amazing how it totally turned on all of a sudden," he said with a grin. "It was like BAM! right in front of our eyes!"

The 50-foot cedar tree draped with 2,625 lights and red and silver ornaments mesmerized kids big and small at the Community Tree Lighting ceremony at Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital Sunday.

When the lights turned on, the tree was so bright that Devin Sifers, 13, "thought it was lightning flashing, striking the tree," he said.

Eleven-year-old Kayla Ochwatt, of Saugus, had never seen such a tree. Only on TV, she said.

"The star was really cool," she said. "And the snowflakes are beautiful."

She said her favorite part of the holidays is the presents and being with family.

"And everybody wears Santa hats and elf hats," she said.

Kids sipped hot chocolate, ate frosted cookies and formed a zigzagged line through the hospital parking lot to whisper their wishes to Santa Claus.

Kirsten Siegman, 11, of North Hills, decorated cookies in the shape of Christmas trees, she said.

The event featured singing performances from kids at local schools.

Nine-year-old Katrina Negrete, of Valencia, sang "Where are You Christmas?"

"It's a little scary because you're in front of a lot of people you don't know," she said. "But your family's watching so you know you're going to be fine."

The community tree is part of the hospital's landscaping at the front of the hospital all year round "where everybody who drives past the hospital can enjoy it," said hospital spokeswoman Andie Bogdan.

This is the 23rd year the hospital has hosted the ceremony, she said.

Santa Clarita City Councilwoman Laurie Ender said that for her, the annual ceremony is her official kick-off for Christmas.

"There are babies and there are teenagers here and they are equally excited. They love this," Ender said.

"And look at all us grown-ups standing around waiting for the lights to go on. It never gets old."


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