PG&E scales back San Jose’s Christmas in the Park sponsorship

PG&E’s financial troubles are affecting a long time holiday tradition in San Jose. The executive director of Christmas in the Park said this year PG&E is scaling back its sponsorship big time. Christmas in the Park is set to open later this month with an expected 700,000 visitors. 

It’s that time of year again. Plaza de Cesar Chavez in downtown San Jose is transformed into a winter wonderland known as Christmas in the Park. Now in its 40th year, the free community event draws big crowds.

Behind the candy shops and the oversized presents, the nonprofit had to work a little harder to secure sponsors this year.

“Earlier this year they gave us a notice that they weren't sure if they were going to be returning as a sponsor because of everything going on,” said Christmas in the Park Executive Director Jason Minsky. “We did recently learn they are returning at a little bit of a lesser level.”

Minsky said for at least eight years, PG&E had been its second biggest cash sponsor behind Southwest Airlines, giving upwards of $20,000-30,000 a year. This year, the utility said it can only provide a $5,000 grant.

“That’s disappointing, it's hard when sponsors don't stay committed and continue to give at the level that you are used to,” said Kelly Castellon of San Jose. “It is surprising you think they could use the boost in the community.”

Minsky said he wasn’t too surprised given the utility filed for bankruptcy protection in January amid blame the utility's equipment caused multiple California wildfires.

“From our standpoint we feel very honored and lucky that we did get some support from them,” said Minsky.

It comes as the event also lost Lowe's as a sponsor. That company gave $20,000 and discounted Christmas trees. 

Home Depot is now helping out. Many new sponsors have also stepped up including Google and eBay and smaller companies like Little Orchard Self Storage.

“We heard that there was a need for sponsorship this year,” said Melissa Volau of Little Orchard Self Storage. 

Little Orchard is putting the finishing touches on its display. The budget for Christmas in the Park is more than a million dollars and a third of the budget comes from corporate sponsors. The nonprofit said any bit helps.

“It’s our small way of keeping Christmas alive and keeping the spirit of Christmas alive,” said Volau.

Christmas in the Park always opens the day after Thanksgiving. It will stay open until January 5.