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Holiday Kickoff — Families flock to San Jose lighting, shoppers swarm Palo Alto (PHOTOS)

By Melissa M. Pandika and Riva Gold | 25 Nov 2012

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The holiday season is in full swing in the South Bay after a weekend full of shopping and festive events.

San Jose kicked off its 33rd annual Christmas in the Park Friday with a Tree Lighting Ceremony, featuring Santa Claus, City Council members and Olympic figure skater and Bay Area native Kristi Yamaguchi. After lighting the 60-foot Community Giving Tree, local artist and former America’s Got Talent contestant Manuel Romero crooned holiday favorites.

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At the two-acre park, located at the Plaza de Cesar Chavez, families can admire musical and animated light displays and visit the Knight Foundation’s community forest of Christmas trees, decorated by city schools, community organizations and businesses. Visitors can also have their portraits taken with Santa, nosh on holiday food and drink and watch nightly entertainment.  The park has several events planned, including a Star Wars Day, a Toys 4 Tots toy drive and Santa Run Silicon Valley, a holiday-themed 5K race. While visiting the park, guests can stop by neighboring attractions, including carnival rides at Winter Wonderland and ice skating at Downtown Ice. Christmas in the Park is free to the public and remains open every day through January 1.

Meanwhile, in Palo Alto, Black Friday shoppers crowded stores on University Avenue. The Apple Store, in its new location, opened doors early for the occasion, and residents began their shopping on the street as early as 8 a.m. Later in the day, outdoor bands entertained shoppers and diners.

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