Once she got over the double-parked Oldsmobile, Michael Dinsmoor gets into the Christmas Tree lighting spirit

WITH PHOTO GALLERY: I gave the double-parked Oldsmobile the stink eye as I rolled past it for a third time, competing with a hoard of minivans (each full of strollers, snow jackets, and children) for a spot as we all were late to the tree-lighting celebration at Downey City Hall on Thursday.  I could hear in the distance the sweet, flat, off-tempo singing of children in Santa hats and knew that I was missing the Christmas cheer.

Three children flip the switch together to light Downey's Christmas tree at the city's lighting event on December 1, 2011. Many in the crowd capture the moment with phones and cameras. Photo by Thatcher Kelley

If I had found a spot earlier, (read: if I’d rammed the Oldsmobile like my internal sense of justice demanded), I might have caught the name of their group/school/girl-scout troop.  As it was, I was grateful they sang with the childlike disregard for volume control so I could at least hear them from the parking lot.

I reached the celebration as “All I Want for Christmas is You” was being belted in solo by a young girl hidden from my view by the hundreds of people crowding the base of the unlit tree.  It was an impressive turnout, but not, as I overheard a man in the crowd say, as big as last years.  Me and my bubble of personal space were thankful for this.  There were people, specifically children, everywhere.  And everyone, it seemed, was in a good mood.

Bob Bryan, Maintenance Leadworker for the Public Works Department and one of the people responsible for getting the tree decorated for the celebration, shook my hand and spoke earnestly as I talked to him about the tree.  I asked how he and his co-workers handled Thursday’s early morning winds that had de-screened windows and felled trees in neighboring cities.

“We prayed,” he said with a slight smile.  “We had a lot of trees knocked down here in the city,” he said, “but thankfully that one stayed.”

He and his team were amazed to arrive Thursday morning and see all the lights and ornaments still holding to the branches.  I didn’t mention that I’d seen a father lift a small boy over his head so the kid could attempt to dangle from one of the snowflake ornaments on the tree.

The mayor elect, Roger Brossmer, was there in a leather jacket and tie.

“As council, we’re just the talent” he said when I asked what kind of preparation went into the celebration.  He laughed.  “Literally, we just show up.  It’s our great staff that gets that done for us.”

All of this he said to me while he and fellow council members David Gafin and Mario Guerra posed for a picture in front of the lit tree.

The suited council members weren’t the only ones in high spirits.  Nahomy Barron, 10 years old, smiled big in her pink jacket, pink hat, and pink scarf.  Her favorite thing about Santa?  “His laugh.”

Her twin sister, Leyvi, likes “the way he smells like toys.”  When I asked her what toys smell like, she answered, “Like plastic?”

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