It was an impressive turn out for the , held Thursday night.
Community members as well as residents of the Masonic Home and , its neighboring not-for-profit continuing care retirement community, enjoyed an evening of sweets, singing, Santa Claus, surprises, and a sparkling grand finale.
"It's an opportunity for the residents and staff to get together as well as being a chance to mix with the community," said Dixie Reeve, executive director of the Masonic Home. "It's the kickoff to the holiday season as well as marking the beginning of [Christmas] events for the Masonic Home and Acacia Creek."
What began as an event held in conjunction with the City of Union City 10 years ago continues today as the lighting of the unofficial Christmas tree for the city, according to Robin Murri, the Masonic Home's executive assistant.
Although not roasting on an open fire, chestnuts were being served to delighted guests and residents during the evening. Masonic Home staff also offered cookies, fresh popcorn and hot beverages to the spirited crowd.
Holiday themed performances were staged by students from and the Show Choir.
"It's a special evening," said Randy Souza, a member of the Masonic Home's executive team. "The community has a chance to come up here, which doesn't happen that often. It's a chance for everyone to enjoy the revelry and say, 'Merry Christmas.'"
Souza stood guard over the sled containing the donations for the Alameda County Fire Department's annual Toys for Tots drive.
Children in attendance received small toys after having their pictures taken with Santa Claus, compliments of the Masonic Home staff.
Before the tree lighting itself took place, winners were announced in the "How tall is the tree contest?" Rosemarie Ortega Palamino and Theo Richmond each won $50 Target gift cards for their similar guesses of 105 feet, one foot off of the tree's actual 104-foot height.
The James Logan High School Show Choir performed four more numbers in front of the unlit tree. The showcase was followed by a raffle announcing the winners of a number of prizes including gift cards ranging in denominations from $50 to $100 for Toys R Us, Best Buy and other local retailers.
After the delighted winners received their prizes, it was time for the switch to be flipped on the majestic towering Christmas tree.
To view highlights from the evening, click on the thumbnails above.