OAKLAND -- Hills residents kicked off the holiday season in style -- Montclair style -- at the 10th annual Holiday Stroll on Dec. 6.

Throngs of people lined the street in record numbers to welcome the holiday season to the village. After days of rain, the weather was dry and the night air was just crisp enough to lend atmosphere to the season.

A record crowd of as many as 2,000 people attended the event, according to an estimate by Daniel Swafford, director of the Montclair Village Association.

The sounds of music drifted through the night air. Sixteen musical and theatrical groups -- including some 150 artists in all -- performed at various spots throughout the village. The ever popular Tap Dancing Christmas Trees from Alameda danced their way around the village, throughout the evening.

The trolley made a comeback this year, snaking through the streets, picking up and dropping off strollers at various destinations around the village.

Shelby Resnick, a third-grader at Montclair Elementary School, looked forward to an evening of nibbling, shopping and visiting with friends.

"There are lots of cool things here tonight," Resnick said. One of Resnick's favorite things was the motorcycles decorated with Christmas lights.

Santa arrived at 6 p.m. at the Golden State Fitness Center, which was transformed into Santa's village. The line spilled into the street with children waiting to sit on Santa's lap. Local photographer Reenie Raschke snapped photos of more than 80 children.


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"The young believers asked Saint Nick for toys and pets. One child brought in the Toys R Us catalogue and another asked for Santa to stop world hunger," Raschke said.

Montclair resident Avril Fitzgerald's children brought her to the event.

"It's become quite the family holiday tradition," Fitzgerald said. The children even had their homework done before she arrived home from work.

The Oakland Fire Department brought their shiny fire truck for children to climb on. They were also collecting toys for the fire department's sponsored Random Acts of Kindness.

Coldwell Banker was offering a free gift wrapping service.

"We wanted to participate in the event," said real estate agent Becky Anderson. "It was great fun. We will do it again next year."

But the biggest hit of the night may have been the closing of Mountain Boulevard between Medau Place and La Salle Avenue.

"I love the new format," said District 4 Councilmember Libby Schaaf, referring to the street closure. "I love the synergy."

Jill Broadhurst, the chair of the Montclair Safety Improvement Council, agreed.

"It's great that they closed off the street," Broadhurst said. "Young parents have wanted this for a long time. It allows for neighborhood fellowship to develop and gives a wonderful feel to the event."

"It's nice to see everyone from the neighborhood." said Natalie Heinrich, who attended the event with her husband and three children. "It's a great community event,"

But it wasn't all fun and games for Zayanne Rifai, a sophomore at Skyline High School. The 15-year-old was selling T-shirts to promote her company F.Y.I., which stands for Fight Your Ignorance. Rifai's mission is to educate youth about bullying and its negative effects.

"I don't like bullying, so I want people to know that it's wrong," Rifai said. "I want people to know that they can stick up for themselves."