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There’s something wonderful happening in Old Sacramento this season.  It may well be the only original seasonal expression to come along in many years, and it’s a delight for the whole family.
Yes, the shops are filled with marvelous, unique gifts and the restaurants shine with decorations of every kind.  Traditional Christmas music propels the hum-along crowds from place to place.  But something special happens after dark—it’s the second year that the Old Sacramento Theatre of Lights transforms the familiar streets into a wonderland of light, sound, and history.

On Thanksgiving Eve, the newly expanded show debuted with the help of Mark S. Allen of Good Day Sacramento, newly elected District 1 City Council Member Angelique Ashby, and our crowd-pleasing Mayor Kevin Johnson.  It was very cold, but several hundred folks turned out to hear the Salvation Army Band play familiar carols while the River Cats’ Dinger danced before the giant Christmas tree with some of the littlest guests. When the Mayor flipped the switch to light the tree—after the obligatory, enthusiastic countdown—there was plenty of oohing and aahing to be heard.

And then for the next 20 minutes the audience, standing enthralled in the middle of K Street, was thoroughly entertained by an extravaganza of lights, sounds, and visual effects.  Mark Twain appeared on the balcony above Evangeline’s and introduced the familiar poem “T’was the Night Before Christmas”, which was first published in The Sacramento Bee in 1857. On the balcony of the venerable What Cheer Building, the poem came to life in splendid style, complete with St. Nick, the eight tiny reindeer, and Papa (Allen) at the window.
The free event is produced by Stage Nine (conveniently located in the What Cheer building), with wonderful effects from Skywalker Sound and Sacramento Theatrical Lighting.  The audience is bolstered by strolling living history characters in authentic 1850’s costumes, including Father Christmas.  The street fair atmosphere is enhanced by the tempting aroma of fresh roasted nuts and steaming hot chocolate and spiced cider.  And everywhere there are families: extended families, toddlers to teenagers, elders with lawn chairs, moms and dads with babes in arms and little ones perched on shoulders.

Melissa Martinez of the Old Sacramento Business Association says that the event hosted 20,000 people last year, and with the expanded and improved light and sound this year, they hope to draw many more visitors this season. The Ebner and the Empire buildings have been restored and are now open and occupied, said Sheri Smith, senior program manager with the Sacramento Office of Economic Development.  And Mike Ault  of the Downtown Business Partnership wants everyone to know that this is a great place to bring the family.  The collaborative efforts of these three organizations are focused on bringing more people, especially more families, into Downtown and Old Sacramento for shopping, dining, entertainment, and cultural events and activities.

The Theatre of Lights will continue to thrill crowds with two performances, at 6 pm and 7:30pm every Thursday through Sunday nights throughout the holiday season (dark on Christmas).  There will be a few special guests throughout the run, and Santa is available for photos after each performance at The Christmas Shoppe.

For an interactive view of K Street lights:

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SacPress Photos | Kati Garner