It was more than a month before Christmas and all through downtown, thousands of Chicoans were milling around. Clutching cups of hot apple cider and bundled in jackets and scarfs, people walked around Sunday evening during the Christmas Preview, organized by the Downtown Chico Business Association.
The event is the start of the holiday shopping season and helps bring people to downtown businesses, DCBA assistant director Becky Watner said.
"It's not Anywhere, USA," she said. "It's very much about our hometown."
People know downtown is ready for the holidays after the preview. There are many options in the city for shopping, so downtown needs to fight for it's spot in the market, she said.
"Downtown offers hospitality," she said. "You are often shopping with the store's owner, not just an employee."
Around 75 businesses participated in the festivities, which included Irish step dancers inside Lulu's Fashion Lounge, ballerinas inside Attic Treasures, hip-hop dancers inside Kreations and belly dancers inside Artifax. The dancers performed inside the stores' display windows so people could stop on the sidewalk to watch.
"This is a really big year," Watner said. "As the city grows, so does the love of downtown."
There were also violinists, pianists, carolers and bands playing Christmas music along Broadway and Main streets. A group of college students singing and playing guitar, bass and bongo drums called the Yule Logs, drew a crowd of around 40 people with their jazzy renditions of songs like "Here Comes Santa Claus."
The best part of the event is seeing people come and get connected to the community.
"You see people bumping into old friends," she said.
Surrounded by red and green boxes at the corner of Third and Broadway streets, Santa Claus listened to children's Christmas wishes and gave them a candy cane after they told him what presents they want.
Parents snapped photos, and children left smiling and excited for the holidays.
Leina and Allison Clark talked with Santa Claus, but weren't sure yet what they wanted for Christmas. They both said they plan to write him a letter at the North Pole.
Leina, 7, said she likes decorating cookies with her grandmother and putting milk out for Santa Claus.
"I like waking up and finding it gone," she said, between licks on her candy cane.
Kelly Clark, Leina's mother, said the ballerinas were beautiful. She enjoys downtown preview because there are so many different things to see.
"You get a little taste of everything Chico has to offer," she said.
Stan and Sherry Haley of Chico were watching the kids talk with Santa Claus.
The Sounds of the Valley Sweet Adelines, a female barbershop-style singing group, was one of Stan's favorite parts of the preview.
Sherry said they have been going to the preview for about six years and it's a good event because it brings the community together.
"If you feel like part of the community you help to make it better," she said.
Staff writer Scott Jason can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.