112817 Santa Maria Christmas tree .jpg

Santa Maria city worker Frank Velasquez assembles the Christmas tree in front of City Hall on Tuesday. Santa Maria's tree-lighting ceremony is slated to begin at 4:30 p.m. Saturday.

Len Wood, Staff

Road closures associated with planned Christmas celebrations and Santa Maria High School football team's bid for a state championship could combine to create traffic challenges downtown Saturday. 

Santa Maria city, school district and parade officials sat down Monday to devise a plan to coordinate people and traffic flow through the city’s core after learning the Santa Maria Saints football team had earned the chance to compete for the state title.

Saturday’s festivities will begin at 4:30 p.m. with Santa Maria's tree-lighting ceremony at City Hall. At 5 p.m., the Festival of Lights fair at Town Center West will begin, followed by the start of the 23rd annual Parade of Lights at 5:20 p.m. 

Then, excitement will ramp up 7:45 p.m., when Santa Maria High School’s football team begins to play its first state title championship game since 1988.

“There will be a lot of people coming downtown, but we have good streets and a plan in place,” said city spokesman Mark van de Kamp.

Christmas tree-lighting ceremony set for 4:30 p.m.

New this year, the Santa Maria’s traditional Christmas tree-lighting ceremony will happen Saturday instead of Friday. It will take place in front of City Hall, at Cook Street and Broadway.

City officials said their reason for moving the day of the lighting was because they wanted to bring together all the holiday kickoff celebrations.

Broadway from Enos Drive to Main Street will be closed at 4 p.m. Saturday to prepare for the parade and the start of the holiday festivities.

Parking for the tree-lighting event will be available in the parking structures in front of the Santa Maria Public Library and at Town Center East.

The event will feature refreshments, welcoming remarks and carolers. There also will be an opportunity for community members to purchase and personalize special Christmas tree ornaments to support Santa Maria Recreation and Parks Department programs.

The 24-foot-tall tree will be illuminated at 5:20 p.m., which will signal the start of the 23rd annual Christmas Parade of Lights. The parade will step off from Stowell Road and Broadway, about one mile south of City Hall. 

Ceremony attendees can make their way south along the parade route, over to the second Festival of Lights -- which will feature vendors and food trucks -- or north to Main Street, where the parade route will end.

Parade of Lights street closures to begin Saturday afternoon

Beginning at 3 p.m., Stowell Road from Broadway to Depot Street will be closed, as the area will be utilized for parade entrants to gather. 

Floats, marchers and bands also will gather on Thornburg Street behind the high school stadium.

Beginning at 4 p.m., Broadway between Enos Drive and Main Street will be closed to all traffic.

“In case of emergency, police officers will be posted at Cook and Jones streets to allow crossing of Broadway,” van de Kamp said.

Championship football game to kick off at 7:45 p.m.

It has been 29 years since the Santa Maria Saints has competed for a state championship title, and city officials are expecting a large crowd of family, friends and fans to flock to the game. 

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City officials want to relay a clear message to those planning to attend the game: "Do not go too early," van de Kamp said.

Game attendees are encouraged to carpool and arrive no sooner than 6:30 p.m. to park at the high school or at the adjacent Santa Maria Fairpark parking lot. Parking will not be available prior to that time. 

Access to the stadium will be from the northern portion of South Thornburg Street.

Those driving to the game will need to travel Depot Street to Morrison Avenue to Thornburg Street. There will not be access to the high school from Stowell Road.

Police officers will be stationed in the area to help direct traffic, according to van de Kamp.

Parking will be available, starting 6:30 p.m., at the high school’s Gate 21, or at the adjacent Santa Maria Fairpark at Gate 1. Parking at the Fairpark will cost $7 per vehicle.

Public transportation will be running

The Santa Maria Area Transit (SMAT) buses that normally run along Broadway will detour to other streets but will continue to run their routes as best they can through the closures, van de Kamp said.

SMAT Route 4 can be used to go to the football game.

“Its normal stop at Morrison and Thornburg will be temporarily moved to the corner of Depot and Morrison,” van de Kamp added.

Logan B. Anderson covers city government in Santa Maria for Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Follow him on Twitter: @LoganBAnderson.

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City Government Reporter