Christmas in the Park opens in San Jose

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- In the South Bay, Christmas in the Park opened to much fanfare Friday night and promises to be bigger and better than ever after the community stepped up to help fund the decades-old holiday tradition.

Featuring exhibits, entertainment, and more than 550 trees decorated by community groups and businesses, the 39th annual event at Plaza de Cesar Chavez is expected to attract more than 700,000 visitors during the course of its run through Dec. 25.

RELATED: 'Selfie Santa' to make the rounds at mall in San Francisco

"Families, sometimes they drift away, but during Christmas time, you really come together, and this is one of those places where it happens," said San Jose resident Jaclyn Mar.

ABC7 News spoke to a number of groups about the meaning behind their trees. San Jose resident David Soriano put one up to honor the daughter he lost nearly 25 years ago because of sudden infant death syndrome.

Bailey Thayer and his family are raising awareness for their nonprofit organization, Have Faith Be Strong.

"We lost a brother and a sister to childhood cancer, and for those to be able to walk by and see, and for us to express through our tree what that means to us, and what that means to other families is just super meaningful," said Thayer.

RELATED: Holiday gift guide 2018: Everything you need to know to find the perfect gift

Another tree from the Catholic Charities STEM program features mini-computer ornaments programmed by local elementary school students.
The giant community giving tree was lit by the Smith family, who recently lost their Paradise homes in the Camp Fire.

"We're just taking it one day a time, and holding each other up, and know that tomorrow is going to be better. It has to be," said Smith.

Organizers say all of the donations from opening weekend will go to a fund to help victims of the wildfire.

RELATED: The best holiday ice rinks in the Bay Area

"My board was amazing, stepped up and made this decision, and we're 100 percent in support of it," said Christmas in the Park executive director Jason Minsky.

For more information on Christmas in the Park go here.
Copyright © 2022 KGO-TV. All Rights Reserved.