OAKLAND -- Rainy and windy weather is forecast for Saturday's fourth annual Tree Lighting Ceremony and Holiday Stroll on Piedmont Avenue, but the weather won't dampen the Christmas spirit.

"We invite people to grab their umbrellas and come on out," said Noella Teele of the Piedmont Avenue Merchants Association and event organizer. "It's a very fun event with a real small-town feeling."

Teele, co-owner of the Issues magazine store on Glen Avenue, said that avenue merchants came up with the idea of a holiday tree lighting ceremony four years ago because the neighborhood didn't have a holiday event at which families could gather and celebrate.

"Jack London Square, Piedmont and Montclair have holiday trees and celebrations," said Teele, who has lived on Glen Avenue for 13 years. "We had street decorations but not a neighborhood gathering."

Saturday's festivities kick off with the tree lighting ceremony at 5 p.m. at the Key Route Plaza by the clock tower. There will be musical entertainment, and, of course, Santa will make an appearance.

"We'll have a little stage on the plaza and local accordionist Salane Schultz will lead the crowd in songs and carol singing," Teele said. "We'll have programs with the words to the songs, so that everyone can join in."

Students from Piedmont Avenue Elementary School will also entertain with holiday songs and a performance by the school band. Just as the crowd is joining in a chorus of "Here Comes Santa Claus," around the corner will come Santa in a big decorated truck drawn by a reindeer "dog."

"The children just go crazy," Teele said. She said that children can have their photos taken with Santa for free.

Then, the countdown to the tree lighting begins. The beloved garland decorations that have crisscrossed Piedmont Avenue for the past 30 years will also be unveiled.

"The whole avenue will be lit up," Teele said. "It makes it so festive for the holidays."

During the holiday stroll, most shops will stay open until 7 p.m. or 8 p.m., Teele said, and offer everything from traditional refreshments to special discount pricing for the evening.

"It's a great chance to peek in and see what local shops are offering for the holidays," she said.

Teele suggests that holiday strollers begin at the MacArthur Boulevard end of Piedmont Avenue and work their way to Mountain View Cemetery, where they can enjoy the Circle of Lights at the entrance to the cemetery.

"It's a nice way to end the stroll," Teele said.

IF YOU GO
What: Fourth annual Piedmont Avenue Tree Lighting Ceremony and Holiday Stroll
When: 5 p.m. Saturday
Where: Key Route Plaza under the clock tower at Piedmont Avenue and 41st Street
Information: Piedmont Avenue Merchants Association website, www.piedmontavenue.org/home