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A grand illumination at the Commons

With prizes, freebies and activities for the young and young-at-heart, it'll be another holiday to remember on Saturday, Nov. 29, at Medford's Winter Lights Festival at the Commons.

The festival kicked off its first year at downtown Medford's new public space last year, and Medford Parks and Recreation Superintendent Rich Rosenthal remembered it as a success.

"We were very pleased with the turnout, but with the weather, we can only hope to be so fortunate again this year," Rosenthal said.

There's much to look forward to if the weather permits, starting with jump-house fun for kids if it's dry.

"We're planing on bringing multiple jump houses at 3:30," Rosenthal said. "I think we needed more than one."

Area businesses will also contribute to the fun. Starbucks will give away free hot chocolate, and the holidays will come early for some children when Lithia gives away bicycles as prizes in a coloring contest for children 12 and younger at the company's corporate office. The contest opens at the office at 3:30 p.m., and winners will be announced during the tree-lighting ceremony at about 6:15 p.m.

Rosenthal attributes the success of the annual event to the city's partnership with area businesses, including presenting sponsor Lithia, and SkyOak Financial, which will provide a space for photos with Santa after about 5 p.m. on the corner of Bartlett and Fourth streets.

"The neighboring businesses to the park have been tremendous partners," Rosenthal said. "Not only with this event, but with the parks and rec events other times in the year, as well."

The traditional candy-cane hunt will start at 4:30 p.m. at the grassy area at Pear Blossom Park near the stage for children under 12. Live music for all ages will follow.

"The band Colonel Mustard will perform until Santa arrives on the stage," Rosenthal said. "Santa will be introduced again at 5 o'clock."

After Santa makes his appearance, the 1965 holiday classic "A Charlie Brown Christmas" will be shown on the Pear Blossom Park stage.

Children will be able to get their pictures taken with Santa indoors at SkyOak Financial at the corner of Bartlett and Fourth streets. "He'll wave and walk through the park on the way to SkyOak," Rosenthal said.

After the film, at about 5:30, live dance performances will be put on by three local youth dance troupes.

"At 6:15 is the grand illumination of the civic holiday tree presented by Mayor Gary Wheeler," said Rosenthal, referring to the park's Norway spruce tree.

Even if the weather doesn't cooperate, Rosenthal assures us Santa Claus will still come to town.

"One way or another, Santa's going to be there, and the candy canes will be found," Rosenthal said. "The band is going to play."

All events at the Winter Lights Festival are free. See www.playmedford.com for complete schedule and details.

Reach newsroom assistant Nick Morgan at nmorgan@mailtribune.com.

Residents gather for the 2013 Winter Lights Festival at The Commons in downtown Medford. Mail Tribune / Julia Moore