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News Briefs: Tree lightings start the holiday season

by Cynthia Laird

Several tree lightings will take place over the next few days, signaling that the holiday season is in full swing. All events, unless noted, are free and open to the public.

Macy's in San Francisco's Union Square will hold its tree lighting Friday, November 24, to coincide with Black Friday, the biggest shopping day of the year. The event begins at 5:30 p.m. in Union Square Park, right across from the store.

The reusable tree will be decorated with more than 43,000 energy-efficient LED lights and 700 ornaments.

People can enjoy entertainment from the San Francisco Boys Chorus, the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir, San Francisco Playhouse's "A Christmas Story: The Musical," and a visit from Snoopy and Santa. The tree will be lit at about 6:50 p.m.

As previously noted in the Bay Area Reporter's Business Briefs column, the Castro Merchants will have a holiday tree lighting ceremony Monday, November 27, at 6 p.m. in front of the Bank of America building at 18th and Castro streets.

The 555 California Street tree lighting ceremony by Vornado Realty Trust will be held Wednesday, November 29 in San Francisco. This year, the tree lighting will team with celebrity chefs and vintners for a ticketed All-Star Holiday Culinary Kickoff that benefits families affected by the northern California wildfires through grants provided by Ronnie Lott's All Stars Helping Kids Foundation's Fire Zone Relief Project.

The festivities begin at 6 p.m. and will feature a special acoustic performance by country music singer Frankie Ballard, as well as appearances by sports celebrities and tasting selections from top chefs. Tickets are $249 and available at

In Oakland, the Jack London Square tree lighting will take place Friday, December 1, from 5 to 7 p.m. Festivities include a 55 foot Mt. Shasta fir tree with 5,000 lights, entertainment from local Oakland musicians, and more. The square is located at the foot of Broadway.

Finally, the Presidio Trust will hold its annual tree lighting Friday, December 8, from 5 to 6:30 p.m. at the Main Post, across from the Presidio Community Y (corner of Lincoln and Funston).

People can gather around the tree and sing holiday classics along with the Golden Gate Carolers - the tree lights up at about 5:30. Light refreshments and kids activities will follow in the Presidio Community Y gymnasium.

There will be a lantern-lit evening forest walk at 6:30.

For other events, visit .

SF Symphony at the LGBT center
The San Francisco Symphony's string quartet will perform a free concert Monday, November 27, from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the LGBT Community Center, 1800 Market Street.

The chamber concert will be followed by a Q&A with the musicians, and all attendees will receive a discount code good for 50 percent off for upcoming symphony performances.

Space is limited and registration is strongly encouraged. To sign up, visit

Get set for Giving Tuesday
After Black Friday and Cyber Monday, nonprofits are hoping to receive some holiday cheer on Giving Tuesday (November 28).

Nonprofits around the Bay Area, including the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and Out and Equal Workplace Advocates, are participating. People are encouraged to visit websites of organizations they support and make a donation.

SFAF, which is marking its 35th anniversary this year, is encouraging donors to give $35 (or more) "to support the critical work we are doing every day to confront HIV in our communities," the agency said in an email blast.

The foundation has a fundraising goal of $18,000, said CEO Joe Hollendoner.
For more information, visit .

Out and Equal has a $10,000 fundraising goal, the agency said in an email to supporters. It is dedicating Giving Tuesday donations to its Workplace Summit Young Professionals Scholarship Fund so that 10 future leaders can attend the organization's annual conference next year.

For more information, visit .

Dine out, help North Bay AIDS group
Food for Thought will hold its Dining Out for Life event Thursday, November 30. The organization provides food to people living with HIV and other illnesses in Sonoma County, parts of which were devastated by the recent North Bay wildfires.

Organizers said that over 65 Sonoma County restaurants are participating and will donate 20 to 25 percent of a patron's bill to the nonprofit.

"At this time of great need in our community, please dine out and support these restaurants that so generously give back to our community," organizers said in a news release.

For a list of participating restaurants, visit

Caltrain seeks reps for bike panel
Caltrain is seeking applicants for its Bicycle Advisory Committee, which serves as the primary venue for the interests and perspectives of bicyclists to be integrated into the Caltrain planning processes.

The committee is comprised of nine volunteer members from San Francisco, San Mateo, and Santa Clara counties. One member from each county represents a public agency staff member, a bike advocacy organization member, and a Caltrain bike passenger from the general public.

Current openings include: San Francisco County public agency, San Mateo County public agency and bike organization, and Santa Clara County general public.

Applications are due Thursday, November 30, and are available at or by calling (650) 508-6391.

The committee meets every other month at 5:45 p.m. in San Carlos, a block from the Caltrain station. All meetings are open to the public.

IOA's Cable Car Caroling
The Institute on Aging will hold its 33rd annual Cable Car Caroling fundraiser Saturday, December 2, from 12:30 to 5:30 p.m. People should meet at Roosevelt Middle School, 460 Arguello Boulevard in San Francisco.

The event, with its theme "From Generation to Generation," brings cheer through traditional carols and other holiday songs to isolated seniors across the city at assisted living centers, skilled nursing facilities, and individual homes. Last year over 500 carolers traveled on motorized cable cars visiting more than 1,000 seniors.

This year's event will honor Patrick Arbore for his 44 years of work making life better for seniors. Arbore, a gay man, is the founder of the Friendship Line, a 24-hour toll-free crisis line (800-971-0016) for people aged 60 and over and adults living with disabilities.

Tickets for Cable Car Caroling are $75 and can be purchased by visiting

SF Vets Film Fest
The sixth annual San Francisco Veterans Film Festival will be held December 2-3 in the Koret Auditorium at the San Francisco Public Library, 100 Larkin Street. Admission is free.

OneVet OneVoice, which produces the festival, said it shares the real stories of service men and women as well as veterans, unfiltered by Hollywood. The festival is also an opportunity for veterans to find support while allowing people to learn about issues facing those who serve in the military.

The festival includes 13 films made by veterans, veteran families, independent filmmakers, and students. This year's animations, dramas, and documentary short and feature length films include unique points of view on a range of situations. There will also be panel discussions.

"The program of films and speakers provides real stories of struggles as well as real solutions, helping veterans in attendance while educating the broader community, which supports healing by making a smoother transition back to home, family, and work," Eddie Ramirez, founder of the film festival and OneVet OneVoice, said in a news release.

Some of the films are "Thank You for Your Service," by Tom Donahue, which looks at the mental health crisis in the military; "After Fire," by Brittany Huckabee, about three Latina veterans; and "The Catcher," by Cassie Guidry, an animated short about a soldier suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

For a full list of screening times and panel discussions, visit


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