Downtown, where all the lights are bright
By JUSTIN BURNETT
Whidbey News Times Staff reporter
December 7, 2011 · Updated 11:40 AM
An estimated 500 people braved Old Man Winter’s chill to attend the eighth annual tree lighting ceremony in downtown Oak Harbor Saturday.
It was a frosty evening with temperatures dipping into the high 30s but it didn’t seem to cool the holiday mood on SE Pioneer Way. Whether grinning over the rim of a prized cup of hot cocoa, taking a frigid carriage ride or craning their necks for a glimpse of Santa Claus, people seemed to be having a good time everywhere you looked.
“We come every year to the tree lighting,” said David Paul, an associate dean at Skagit Valley College. “It’s a nice event.”
Paul was there with his wife and four children and typified the many families in attendance. While many came to watch the tree lighting itself, that magical moment when the cedar on the corner of Dock Street is alight with holiday warmth and cheer, Santa Claus was also a big hit.
Arriving by horse-drawn carriage, the big man led the countdown to flip the switch for the tree lighting. He then spent the next three hours at Harborside Village with a legion of children eager to rattle off their Christmas wish lists.
“The line was a block long,” said Ron Apgar, president of the Downtown Merchants Association. “He didn’t leave until 9:30 p.m., until everyone was seen.”
Santa’s big entrance and the tree lighting kicked off shortly after 6 p.m. but the day’s festivities began hours earlier when association members began offering free goodies to shoppers with Sweets on the Streets.
Later, after the street was closed to traffic, event-goers had the chance to enjoy a musical performance by the Oak Harbor Middle School band, caroling by St. Augustine Catholic Church members, a bake sale benefiting Big Brothers Big Sisters and carriage rides by Pioneer Tree & Landscaping. Free hot cocoa, cider and candy canes were also a well-enjoyed treat.
Saturday’s event has for years served as the launch of the holiday shopping season in downtown. But with all the construction on SE Pioneer Way, this year’s tree lighting was especially important and the community didn’t disappoint, Apgar said.
“I thought it was just great attendance,” he said. “Thanks everybody.”
Santa, by the way, will be back every weekend to meet and greet kids in downtown Oak Harbor.
Contact Whidbey News Times Staff reporter Justin Burnett at email@example.com or 360-675-6611 ext. 5054.