Kai Oliver-Kurtin | Downtown News
The 35th annual Balboa Park December Nights is expected to draw over 300,000 people for a festive multicultural celebration Dec. 7 – 8. As San Diego’s largest free community festival, December Nights brings music, food and entertainment to the park in honor of the holidays.
The public is invited to roam the park’s 15 major museums, which will be offering free admission from 5 to 9 p.m. both nights. Repeat guests from years past can expect to see additional enhanced lighting around the Botanical Building and lily pond.
The pond was recently the victim of vandalism after an organized late-night water gun fight left more than $19,000 in damages—since repaired with the help of volunteers and financial donations.
“December Nights is not a revenue generator for us,” said Debbie Petruzzelli, the park’s public relations manager. “It’s held as a goodwill gesture to the community.
“We give away about $700,000 worth of free admissions that weekend, so the event is really a gift to the people of San Diego,” she said.
In another generous gift, Leo Hamel Fine Jewelers will choose one winner from their engagement ring contest to propose on stage at Spreckels Organ Pavilion in front of thousands during the opening ceremony. Selected for their special love story, this lucky couple will win a 1.2-carat Hearts on Fire diamond ring, valued at over $10,000.
Also on the Organ Pavilion stage, members of Del Cerro Baptist Church will perform their 26th annual musical production of “The Christmas Story,” while gathered around a 30-foot tree.
“Their performance is always a highlight event,” said Petruzzelli. “It takes an entire week just to build the tree.”
Not far from the brightly lit tree, the House of Pacific Relations International Cottages will have eclectic food and drinks from around the world, and various performances representing their cottage nation’s culture.
“December Nights gives people an opportunity to walk through San Diego’s cultural treasures,” said Petruzzelli. “It lets the cultural organizations really shine.”
Also in the spotlight, the San Diego Junior Theatre, San Diego Civic Youth Ballet and San Diego Civic Dance Arts will each hold performances at various park locations, while The Old Globe Theatre will offer music and docent-led tours, and the Marie Hitchcock Puppet Theater will present puppet shows.
December Nights kicks off Friday at 5 p.m. and begins at noon on Saturday — with both nights wrapping up at 10 p.m.
Due to extremely limited parking available inside the park, there will be free shuttles running from San Diego City College and Petco Park. At City College, drivers will be charged $5 per vehicle to park.
For more information, visit balboapark.org/decembernights, or follow them on Twitter @decembernights.