Robert Eliason photo of the annual bonfire held near the San Juan Bautista Mission Dec. 15

Bonfire at the Mission happens every year and the San Juan Service Club has been hosting it for about 60 years.  

Pieces of wood are collected on the Mission property and out in the field next to the Mission school and offices. 

People can throw wood scraps and trimmings on it and the whole pile is filled with wooden pallets as well. It stands about 12-15 feet tall before it is lit.

On the Dec. 15, the San Juan Bautista Community Center is open for kids to come and see Santa Claus.

Photographer Robert Eliason, a San Juan Bautista resident explained, “Santa comes through town on a firetruck after sundown and goes to the the Community Center.

By this time the area around the bonfire is filled with people. When Santa arrives, that is the signal for the wood to be doused with gas and lit,” he said of the annual event.

Eliason said that the fire gets hot fast, “… and I mean ‘melt the paint off the sides of cars’ hot,” he said.   

While the fire burns, kids run back and forth seeing how close they can stand to be near it.” Eliason describes it as,”a remarkable, primal event.”  

He said younger children are across the street at the Community Center with Santa and all his goodies.