Santa Claus arrived at Mission Plaza in a stylish convertible on Nov. 24 to set up shop until Christmas Eve.

He was greeted with a festival at Santa’s House that kicked off the Christmas season. The 50-piece San Luis Obispo County Band performed concert music and local shops Uptown Espresso and Sweet Shoppe provided refreshments.

Country radio station 98.1 KJUG and Downtown Brown, a bear mascot for the Downtown Association, also dropped by the festivities.

Approximately 3,500 children visit Santa every year at the house, said Kristen Dennis, promotions director for San Luis Obispo’s Downtown Association. The small red house, which sits in the center of the plaza near the mission, is entering its 15th year in San Luis Obispo. It is the only permanent home for Santa in the city.

Dennis said visiting Santa’s House is a good way to get into the local Christmas sprit.

“It just seems right to have Santa downtown because (people) can visit Santa and then have lunch and go shopping,” she said. “It’s just a well-rounded experience.”

People of all ages are welcome to visit Santa this winter and are even allowed to bring their pets along. Dennis recalled that in 2005, someone brought their horse.

“Santa had to come out of the house to greet the horse. People want to get pictures with their pets,” she said with a laugh.

Visitors can also bring a wish list to their visit with Santa and it will be posted on the walls of Santa’s House. Dennis said by Christmas Day, the house is covered with lists.

“It’s so cute because kids ask for the funniest things. Some just want a scarf but others are like, ‘I want a Playstation 2, I want a flatscreen TV’. It’s funny,” Dennis said.

The house will be open from 5 to 8 p.m. on Thursdays, 2 to 5 p.m. on Fridays and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends. The house – and a carousel behind it – will be open the whole week leading up to Christmas Day.

Pictures with Santa are $5. Each person who visits Santa receives a toy, candy cane and coloring book.

In addition to Santa’s House, the Downtown Association also hosted the 31st Annual Holiday Parade on Dec. 1. The event, which featured floats, marching bands and other exhibitions from local groups, draws thousands of spectators each year along Higuera Street.

Dennis, a Cal Poly alumna, said the parade has something for everyone.

“When I was a student at Cal Poly, I didn’t know about (the holiday parade). I wish I did because it’s really cool to see and experience,” Dennis said.

On Dec. 9, the Downtown Association showed a screening of the movie, “Polar Express” in the Downtown Centre Cinemas starting at 10 a.m.

Admission was free to children who brought canned food items. All proceeds from the event were donated to the SLO County Food Bank.

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