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Petaluma lights up for the holidays

Check out this glittering assemblage on virtual and no-virtual activities designed to make the holidays a little more merry and bright.|

The thing about humans is, even when things are not so good, we can often find ways to spark a light in the darkness, whether its a literal light, like a candle or a string of glowing bulbs or a lamp on an empty stage, or something that shines a more metaphorical light, like a story, a ritual, a song or a joke. Maybe that’s why, in spite of the worsening pandemic that has shut down many local businesses and group activities for months, there are still plenty of things to look forward to as the holiday season begins to show its shiny, twinkle-lit face around Petaluma.

Here are a few entertaining examples of socially-distanced, COVID-aware activities planned for this holiday season in Petaluma — and many taking place virtually, all over the web.

When planning any outing , of course, one should check the website of the sponsor, since potential stay-at-home orders could lead to cancellations of some or all of the following events, especially the non-virtual ones. Please be safe, and take care of one another, but let’s not forget to keep those lights shining, one way or another.

CITY OF LIGHTS DRIVING TOUR (Dec. 1-31) - While it’s true that many of us will not be hosting holiday visitors this year, that’s no reason to hide our Christmas lights under a bushel. At this season, especially this year, who couldn’t use the bright-and-beautiful emotional uplift of seeing a gorgeously decorated house bedazzled and bedecked with glowing lights? The Petaluma Visitors Program is again organizing its annual Self-Guided City of Lights Tour, which officially begins on Dec. 1 and will run nightly through Dec. 26. On the VisitPetaluma website, you’ll find a map to local households that will have festooned their glittering exteriors with all manner electric lamp, light, lantern, bulb and beacon, be they incandescent, LED, icicle-style, rope-style, candle-style, retro, micro or mesh, projected, electric or battery-operated. And don’t get us started on what illuminated inflatable characters might be on display, because that list could go on for a page-and-a-half. The list of participating houses currently stands at around 25, and could grow by kick-off time.

SRJC’s ‘WONDERFUL LIFE’ ON YOUTUBE - (Friday and Saturday, 4 and 5. 7:30 p.m.) Consider it an early Christmas present: a new musical adaptation of “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Performed by actors in separate spaces using the Zoom format, the show will be streamed live on YouTube for two weekends. Directed by John Shillington, who also wrote the script, this production is a first for the Santa Rosa Junior College’s Theater Arts program, which has dabbled in Zoom productions over the last several months, but has never attempted a musical using the online meeting-based software. A number of Petaluma artists are involved on the management and tech side. "Admission“ fees are in the form of online donations. For more information or to reserve tickets, visit TheatreArts.SantaRosa.edu.

6th STREET’s ‘WONDERFUL LIFE’ AS LIVE RADIO PLAY (Dec. 1 - Jan. 1) - Yes, yet another production of “It’s a Wonderful Life” opens this weekend, this one a non-musical, directed by Petaluma’s Carl Jordan, and performed by a small cast playign 1940’s radio actors telling George Bailey’s story in front of microphones, and with a live “foley artist” creating the soundscape. This one is presented by Santa Rosa’s 6th Street Playhouse. It opened last weekend with a live watch-it-while-it-happens performance, which was recorded, and is now available as a pay-per-view show through all of December. For information visit 6thStreetPlayhouse.com.

‘A CHRISTMAS CAROL’ TO BENEFIT CINNABAR (streaming pay-per-view through Jan. 3) - A one man performance of Dickens’ classic holiday tale was taped in an empty theater in New York City. Every viewing of this extraordinary show — which Argus-Courier theater reviewer Alexa Chipman calls “breathtaking” — benefits Petaluma’s Cinnabar Theater. A great holiday activity for the whole family on a cold winter’s night. CinnabarTheater.org.

HOSPICE VIRTUAL COMMUNITY TREE LIGHTING & REMEMBRANCE (Friday, December 4, 6 p.m.) - Light Up a Life is Petaluma’s annual holiday remembrance of loved-ones lost, and this year it’s an online community celebration of treasured memories, held not in the park but onscreen, on the Hospice website. A December tradition for 35 years, the virtual community-wide event will take place from the safety of participant’s homes. The Hospice virtual tree lighting and remembrance ceremony can be viewed live, as it happens, and will then be available for viewing (kind of like a re-run!) through the end of the year. Hospice of Petaluma invites community members to honor their loved one with the “purchase” of a light on one of their trees, which will still be set in public places. Call Hospice at 778-6242 and ask to purchase a light. Each name being honored will be added to the Hospice online and printed Memory Book.

TRANSCENDENCE HOLIDAY DRIVE-IN SHOW (Friday, December 4 through Sunday, Dec. 6, 6 p.m.) - Transcendence Theatre Company is doing something magical in place of its annual indoor holiday shows this year. First, they have created a special compilation holiday show from favorite moments of past extravaganzas, and are calling it “Broadway Holiday.” Then, instead of simply streaming it, they’ll be screening it in a drive-in movie format for three nights at SOMO Village in Rohnert Park, then from 11-13 at Sonoma Raceway. “From the warmth and comfort of your own car,” says a description on the company’s website, “share in holiday festivities like never before. As you arrive, you will enjoy a jolly holiday sing-along, beautiful local wines with seasonal bites, in-car interactive activities for the whole family, dazzling COVID-friendly live entertainment, and be among the first audiences to experience the spectacular screening of ”Broadway Holiday.” Cost is $59 per car, and more for something called “The VIP Experience.” After two weekends of drive-in screenings, “Broadway Holiday” will run online in a free, donations-requested run from Dec. 18-24. TranscendenceTheatre.org.

‘A RED CAROL’ AUDIO PLAY FROM SF MIME TROUPE (streaming begins Dec. 11) - For years, the SF Mime Troupe was a favorite part of the annual Progressive Festival in Petaluma. With COVID putting the kibosh on their annual tour of original musical plays, the troupe is going on line with a radio-theater production titled “A Red Carol,” putting a working class spin on Dicken’s classic. Written and directed by Michael Gene Sullivan, the show is free, with a $20 suggested donation for those who have the funds to help. To check it out, visit SFMT.org.

DRIVE-THRU CHANUKAH EXPERIENCE (Sunday, Dec. 13 from 4:30-6 p.m.) - Speaking of holiday lights and in-car adventures, Chabad of Petaluma, in lieu of the popular Chanukah at the River celebration, will be presenting a drive-thru version at the fairgrounds while remaining in their vehicles, attendees will drive along a well-marked course where they will be greeted by a fire-and-light juggler, then presented with individually packaged “Chanukah treats and surprises” on their way past a troupe of circus entertainers including a magician and balloon animal artist. While remaining safely inside the car, you can listen to special music spun by a live DJ via your vehicle’s radio, catch a glimpse of the world’s largest dreidel (it apparently fits on a flatbed truck!), and includes the grand giant menorah lighting. Numbers must be limited, so reservations are required at JewishPetaluma.com/ChanukahExperience or by calling 559-8585.

TWISTED PANDEMIC HOLIDAY FUNDRAISER (Streaming beginning on Dec. 17) - With so many theater companies shut, many are hurting desperately. Leave it to Sebastopol’s Main Stage West to stage a fundraiser that’s both heartwarming and, well, kind of twisted. They’ve invited some of Sonoma County’s best known actors and singer to drop by the theater, one at a time, to perform a song, tell a story, or give a remembrance of their favorite Christmas and theatrical memories. Expect to see Mary Gannon Graham (a local favorite) delivering a tale of theater magic, the Argus-Courier’s own David Templeton reading his comic-horror semi-classic “Crumbs at Midnight,” plus Petaluma’s John Browning and many more. Visit MainStageWest.com on or after Dec. 17 to watch the hour-long show. It’s free, but there will will be an opportunity to donate to keep the theater alive until it can open for real.

<strong id="strong-a6ca05e7491bfd9e93ecc32efe26a1ce">SEND US HOLIDAY EVENT INFO</strong>

The Argus-Courier will be letting our readers know about as many holiday events (virtual or in-person) as we can. Please let us know about any event coming up now through New Year’s, and please include pertinent details. And give us at least a couple of weeks advance notice. Send information to Community Editor David Templeton (david.templeton@arguscourier.com)

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