Winterfest attracts thousands to downtown Lake Elsinore

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Workers add artificial snow to make the sled run come alive during Lake Elsinore’s Winterfest event. Valley News/Will Fritz photo

Thousands piled into downtown Lake Elsinore Saturday, Dec. 7, for the city’s Winterfest, an annual tradition featuring an “old-fashioned” Christmas parade, a tree-lighting ceremony, a snow sled run and dozens of vendors.

The parade kicked off at 3 p.m., showcasing school bands, JROTC marchers, ballet folklorico performers and a team of Zumba participants.

Despite forecasts of rain, the festival attendees – more than 9,000 people came, according to Lake Elsinore Mayor Steve Manos – were met with only the occasional light drizzle.

“Actually, we were very concerned about the weather, so the turnout has been fantastic considering that,” Manos said.

Now more than 20 years old, the event this year featured some new light sculptures and more vendors, Manos said.

“Some of the decorations on the trees are new, they’ve been updated and upgraded,” he said. “We also went ahead and changed some of the dancing lights that are up here and what not.”

Santa was available for visits and photos in the gazebo at nearby City Park. Meanwhile, Cops for Kids, which helps disadvantaged families, and other nonprofits were accepting donations.

One of those nonprofits Honoré Home of Care was founded last year by 11-year-old Zuri Honoré to help homeless people throughout Southern California.

Zuri said his organization sells scarves and hats made by his grandmother, as well as accepts donations, to fund efforts for people in need.

His organization held a cookout last month to give the homeless a hot meal and give them a scarf, a hat and a toiletry bag.

“We’re doing all these events so that way we can be helping more and more people who are in need in the Inland Empire,” Zuri said.

He said Honoré Home of Care also partners with a local small business, Handcrafted Treasures, which sells hair accessories, pillows and other handcrafted items and donates a percentage of their sales.

The event was packed with community members all the way until its ending at 7 p.m., with attendees taking their time looking at vendors or playing games.

“I love it. I come every year,” festival-goer Angela Rodriguez said.

She said she has been going to Winterfest for at least the last 15 years.

“We go in the snow, we play the games, we get popcorn,” Rodriguez said. “We just walk around and have a good time and drink hot cocoa.”

Will Fritz can be reached by email at wfritz@reedermedia.com. A Ford Model T fire engine rolls down Lake Elsinore’s Main Street during the city’s Old Fashioned Christmas Parade, part of Winterfest, Saturday, Dec. 7. Valley News/Will Fritz photo