Holiday celebrations in Redwood City will continue Monday night as Redwood City kicks off its Third Annual Chanukah Festival at 5:15 p.m. in Courthouse Square.
The smell of donuts and latkes will fill the air, fire jugglers will dazzle, kids will have plenty of activities to entertain them, and local and state officials will help lead the festivities.
Says program director Ella Potash and her husband, Rabbi Levy of Chabad MidPen, it's a wonderful way to connect with your fellow neighbors while celebrating the holidays and remembering what they're really about.
"It's really a beautiful event; it has such a wonderful energy to it," Ella said. "It's so nice to get to celebrate Chanukah with the people of your city."
Plus, Ella said the message of Chanukah - how it commemorates the time when the Jews triumphed with light over darkness - is more important now than ever.
"It's such an appropriate message for these days and times," she said.
To celebrate that message in a fun and lively way, Monday night's festival will include a menorah lighting ceremony around 6:10 p.m., featuring Redwood City Mayor Alicia Aguirre, California State Senator Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto), Rabbi Levy, and other locals.
Other fun activities, which begin at 5:15, include a performance by a dazzling fire juggler, activities for the kids, and - of course - plenty of donuts and latkes for all.
Ella said, her favorite part of the Chanukah festival is that it's right in her own town.
A little over three years ago, when Ella and her husband and their children moved to Redwood City, they searched for local Chanukah events to attend during the holidays, but they could only find ones that required a significant drive.
"There was never a menorah lighting in the mid-Peninsula area that was quick and easy to get to," she said, pointing out that the closest ones they could find were in Palo Alto, Burlingame, or even in San Francisco's Union Square.
So, after becoming involved with Chabad MidPen, they decided the mid-Peninsula needed its own festival - and the first one took place in 2010.
"It's been growing bigger and bigger every year," she said. "Last year we had over 300 people attend - we were so pleased with the turn-out."
All are welcome at the festival, regardless of religion, the Potash family reminds.
The festival organizers at Chabad MidPen ask that people pre-register on the center's website in advance if at all possible, to help them know how many donuts and latkes to prepare - and, as an incentive, pre-registering puts one's name in the hat to win an iTunes gift card.
For more information or to pre-register to attend, visit www.chabadmidpen.com/festival.
Have you attended one of the previous two Chanukah Festivals in Courthouse Square? How did you like the event? Tell us in the comments.