PHOTOS: Hundreds of Castro neighbors turn out for annual Holiday Tree Lighting Ceremony

Castro Holiday Tree all lit up

Over a hundred people, both family and friends, gathered around the unlit holiday tree at 18th and Castro Street for the Castro's Annual Holiday Tree Lighting Ceremony. There were so many people that we spilled into the street as SFPD routed the 24 line around the crowd. Castro ambassador and drag queen Donna Sachet "Mistress Claus" MC'd the event which featured a band playing carols and a children's choir leading the crowd in song. Many local politicians including District Attorney George Gascon, Treasurer José Cisneros, and Disctrict 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener were there to say a few words and encourage the crowd to keep it local and hit the stores after the ceremony. The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence gave the benediction: AMen, AWomen, AEverythingElse.

Throughout the ceremony, local activist Michael Petrelis, minced no words with his bull horn calling out Supervisor Wiener's aggressive political moves over the past few months including the ban on nudity and his support for the removal of the benches at Harvey Milk Plaza. Other activists from Occuprides's Community Not Commodity contingent held up large, but festive signs that read, "Santa is a nudist" and "Scott Wiener the grinch who stole benches". Most of the crowd was not pleased with Petrelis's actions booing him in unison as many times as he took to his bullhorn. Many people in the crowd murmured that it was neither the time nor the place to make a political statement. Donna Sachet handled the interruptions with poise and grace saying that everyone will have their turn to speak and celebrate which helped keep the tone positive and upbeat for everyone.

After introducing Santa Claus and his merry (possibly toasty) band of elves and asking the children what they'd like from Santa Claus this year, Donna Sachet led the crowd in a booming countdown that ended with the lighting of the Castro's Holiday Tree and hugs all around.