Ryan Chartrand

San Luis Obispo doesn’t shut down over the break just because Cal Poly students leave. In fact, there are a wide variety of events going on throughout the area during December and January.

One of the highlights of downtown San Luis Obispo will be the holiday parade at 7 p.m. Dec. 7. The parade has about 95 entries and there are floats as well as other groups participating. The parade’s focus will be on the floats, which are decorated along this year’s theme of “Holly Jolly Holiday.”

“There will be contests for the floats, such as best in theme, most entertaining and most creative,” said Katie Hollingsworth, promotions coordinator for the Downtown Association.

This will be the parade’s 32nd year and it is being co-sponsored by the Downtown Association and Court Street (the shopping complex that features Pottery Barn and Banana Republic).

In addition to watching the parade, Hollingsworth said students can volunteer to help run it. There are positions available for setting up and acting as “walkers,” people who patrol the parade route to ensure the safety of its participants and audience.

Students can also volunteer to be elves at Santa’s House in Mission Plaza, which is open until Dec. 25. Even those who aren’t interested in volunteering at Santa’s House can get pictures taken with the jolly old man himself.

Starting Dec. 3, Mission Plaza will also feature a carousel as an old-fashioned way to enjoy a little holiday spirit – at least until the end of the year.

Finding a unique gift is also a possibility when Christmas in the Plaza comes to Mission Plaza on Saturday and Sunday. This event is an annual holiday craft fair featuring local artists who sell their handcrafted items.

There will be more than 30 vendors at the event. Food and entertainment will be served from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. at the free event.

“We try to make the downtown core have something for everyone over the holidays,” Hollingsworth said.

A 35-foot tall Christmas tree in Mission Plaza would be a fun thing to see for anyone who is used to living in a big city where a tree is put up every year.

Although Mission Plaza is at the center of most of this years’ holiday events, other parts of downtown are getting involved as well.

On Dec. 14, there will be a special event on Garden Street, where the whole block will be cordoned off and there will be specials at each store.

“The event is meant to encourage late-night holiday shopping and should be fun,” Hollingsworth said, adding that in addition to the sales, stores will have treats and hot cider for shoppers to enjoy.

The Downtown Association and the San Luis Obispo Parks and Recreation department have arranged for snow to be brought in for visitors’ enjoyment during the Jan. 11 Farmer’s Market.

The snow is free to play in and open to both adults and children. Hollingsworth said it is a way to enjoy the parts of winter that the area does not usually see.

There are also some great events going on outside San Luis Obispo over the holidays. On Saturday from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., Morro Bay will be celebrating with its annual Lighted Boat Parade. Local boaters will cruise the harbor with boats decked out in holiday lights, which should be a free and fun alternative to a street parade.

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