Rodeo Drive shut itself off to the usual parade of exotic cars and opened its arms to thousands of holiday revelers for the annual Rodeo Drive Holiday Lighting Celebration on Nov. 18. The event, which the city canceled last year due to the coronavirus, saw the street come to life with song, dance, a visit from Santa Claus, and a fireworks show.
“Are you ready to add even more glow to our evening?” Mayor Robert Wunderlich called out to the throngs of people before he and the City Council ceremonially “turned on” the lights along the street.
Sounding a cautious note, the city incorporated safety precautions into the event. Organizers set up two main stages on either ends of Rodeo Drive between Santa Monica and Wilshire Boulevards to prevent guests from congregating exclusively at one stage, as had been the case in former years.
Additionally, signs posted along the street instructed visitors to wear masks when not actively eating or drinking. That request was not universally observed, however.
The cast for “LOVE ACTUALLY LIVE,” playing at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills, took a break to perform a number from the show. A trio of singers dazzled the many children in attendance with a rendition of “Let It Go” from the animated feature and Broadway show “Frozen.” The crowd also looked on in suspense as acrobatic performer Christian Stoinev and his Chihuahua Scooby performed feats of balance and strength.
In addition to the stage acts, other holiday characters populated the street and interacted with the crowds. Holiday elves posed for photos with families and rode up and down the street on enormous tricycles while surreal, ghostly-white reindeer on stilts towered over children and adults alike.
Last year, the city drastically scaled back the event due to public health concerns. While Rodeo Drive underwent its usual holiday glam-up, the city scraped plans for in-person events. This year’s celebration drew approximately 6,000 attendees, and marked the largest event hosted by the city since the pandemic. Other years have seen as many as 10,000 visitors at the festivities.