Show must go on: Winterfest tradition continues despite weather conditions
ORINDA, Calif. - The weekend storm didn’t dampen a beloved holiday tradition in Tilden Park.
The Redwood Valley Railway in Orinda held its annual "Winterfest." Passengers are taken on a scenic journey through the redwoods, as steam trains traverse through more than a mile of trees decorated with ornaments and twinkly lights.
"Seeing Santa come through the fog is so magical, especially with the lights in the trees," said passenger Neoma Lavalle.
The event first started in 2014 and is known to draw large crowds that spill into the parking lot. But this weekend, there were plenty of empty train cars.
"I think a lot of people are staying home because it’s freezing," said Ellen Thomsen, owner and president of Redwood Valley Railway. "But we like to get the trains out and run them anyway."
Thomsen said they decided not to cancel this outdoor event because they love it. Staff dress in period costumes and "Father Solstice" rides what is called "The Chariot of Fire" through the darkness.
The trains even kept rolling during Saturday’s downpour that lasted hours.
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"We had a few brave souls who came and rode, and we have a lot of regulars who just love this event," said Thomsen. "It has become a family tradition for them for many years now."
"It’s a fun adventure doing it in the rain," said Sam Hunt with his son Gus. The pair were decked out in rain gear.
We found others in scarves, gloves, and hats. Some people brought blankets.
"We are definitely not afraid of some cold and wet weather," said passenger Ben Bachelder.
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"We had a blast," said passenger Jamie Olsen. "I’m from Seattle, so I’m used to this."
The National Weather Service wants people to prepare for some "very cold" temperatures when the rain finally does move out.
"We currently have a freeze watch in effect for the North Bay valleys…one of the concerns…rules that we follow are remembering the four ‘P’s’. That’s plants, people, pets, and pipes," said NWS meteorologist Matt Mehle.
Mehle said the rainfall has been beneficial for California, but it has not ended the drought.