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November 21, 2006 > Niles prepares for Festival of Lights

Niles prepares for Festival of Lights

by Charlotte Flowers-Weston

Bring the camera; Niles will supply the lights and action. One of the original five historic districts of Fremont, Niles will again officially open the greater Tri-City Christmas season with tree lighting ceremony at 6 p.m. followed by a parade of bands, floats and a collection of individuals and groups dressed for the occasion. Presented by the Niles Merchant’s Association, the parade is pure hometown Americana reflecting the spunk and heritage, past and present, of this singular section of Fremont.

Every year for the past 5 years, Shirley Filgate has been proud to be a part of the Festival of Lights. Filgate, a member of the Niles Merchants Association since 1970 and currently a member of the board says the parade helps introduce the unique flavor of Niles to others and helps the businesses in town. “I like to see that all the merchants are successful. They’re all doing one thing, and that’s trying to make a living.”

According to Filgate, about 60 entries are expected including several floats from area businesses, and 2 live bands. She adds, “There will be free pictures with Santa, cookies for the children and lot’s of fun.”

Niles has maintained much of its “wild west” spirit and frontier welcome for visitors as it celebrates its roots as a rail stop on the early Transcontinental Railroad and home to many silent movie legends. During the heyday of the western branch of Essanay Studios, located in Niles from 1912 to 1915, movie stars such as Broncho Billy, Charlie Chaplin, Ben Turpin, Wallace Beery and Zasu Pitts roamed the streets of Niles. One of Chaplin’s most famous movies, The Tramp, was filmed in the area.

People come from all over to appreciate the traditional holiday cheer, activities, and events that are held in the Niles District. Stores will remain open to help shoppers find a unique gift for that special someone.  A booth to help support The League of Volunteers will also be featured that evening. As an area-wide support group for the community throughout the year, this organization has recently appealed for financial help and Niles is responding. Filgate notes that along with the traditional holiday appeals of ‘Toys for Tots and Older’ and worthy organizations, additional donations will be put to good use.

As the first of many tree lightings that follow Thanksgiving, Niles takes its role as the premiere event with a passion. No holds are barred as the spirit of the season permeates every corner of the town. Expected to make an appearance in the parade, are children’s favorites including, Curious George, Clifford the Red Dog, Spot the Dog, and Lars the Polar Bear and of course, Santa Claus.

Volunteers are always welcome. To find out more about the Festival of Lights and other Niles Merchants Association events including their annual holiday homes tour scheduled for December 2, visit or call (510) 792-8023. Information is also available at

Niles Tree Lighting
6 p.m.
Niles Boulevard and “I” Street, Fremont

Festival of Lights Parade
6:30 p.m.
Niles Boulevard between “F” and “J” Streets, Fremont

P.S. To round out your weekend, don’t miss the Centerville Tree Lighting on Sunday, November 26 at the Centerville Train Station – 37260 Fremont Blvd. – in Fremont.

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