Holiday cheer (and Santa) arrive in Oak Harbor

The formidable 40-foot Christmas tree and unique entrance by Santa Claus in his pirate ship helped make Friday’s downtown celebration notable, but the approximately 1,000 people who flocked to the event made it unforgettable.

Donated by Chuck and Gail Jaeger, the towering tree was lit by 1,200 lights purchased by the Soroptimists, complementing the Harborside Merchants’ snow burst tree topper.

“It was unbelievable,” said Phil Sikes, Harborside Merchants Association events committee member. “You just have to see that tree.”

People walked, talked, strolled, shopped and ignored the cold, choosing instead to revel in the Christmas spectacles. In fact, the street had to be closed to accommodate the crowd.

“It way exceeded our expectations,” said Lydia Sikes, events committee chairperson. “People just kept on coming.”

The sheer number of children who brought their adolescent energy made the ceremony extra special. When Santa arrived via pirate ship, the young throng erupted.

“The kids were squealing,” Phil said. “They are the main thing and they were having a ball.”

“That’s the whole point,” added Lydia.

Caroling provided by the Oak Harbor High School Choir helped take the edge off of the frigid night.

“I probably saw one or two people leave early,” Phil said. “It was just a resounding success.”

Putting up the tree was a project in itself, made possible by the fire department, Krieg Construction and Oak Harbor Public Works.

In addition to donating the lights, the Soroptimists set up the popular Christmas Village in Paint Your World.

“This is what a downtown and a community should be,” Phil said. “The city’s involvement was beyond reproach.”

The magnitude of Friday’s celebration eclipsed last year’s in every way.

“We had a small tree and the wind beat it to death. We learned from last year,” Phil said.

Community members were apparently chomping at the bit to throw unprecedented support behind the event.

“I’d been hearing that people thought it was about time,” Lydia said. “There was lots of positive feedback.”

Friday left people wondering how the Harborside Merchants and everyone else involved would top this year’s event.

“Baby steps,” Lydia said. “We’re just delighted the way it turned out.”

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