Gathered to greet the season

Vancouver Rotary Foundation presents annual tree-lighting ceremony in Esther Short Park

By Patty Hastings, Columbian breaking news reporter



Festival of trees

Most events in the Vancouver Rotary Foundation Festival of Trees are free, but organizers suggest a donation of $5 per family for tree viewing.

Festival of Trees: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday; 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, Pearson Air Museum, 1115 E. Fifth St.

Hot Buttered Run and Kids Kandy Kane Race: 8 a.m. Sunday, registration; 8:30 a.m., kids zone and gear check-in; 9:40 a.m., 12k run starts; 10 a.m., 5k walk/run starts; 11:45 a.m., kids races start; noon, awards ceremony, all starting and finishing at Pearson Air Museum. Admission: $40 on race day for 12K and 5K. Kandy Kane Race is sold out. On the Web: Hot Buttered Run and Kids Kandy Kane Race.

Gala dinner and tree auction: 5:30 to 10 p.m. Dec. 1, Pearson Air Museum. Cost: $95 per person. Reservations required. Call 360-750-0409.

About 2,000 people wearing raincoats and carrying umbrellas descended upon Propstra Square in Esther Short Park on Friday evening for the 17th annual community tree-lighting sponsored by the Vancouver Rotary Foundation.

The crowd was soaking wet and smiling as they sang along to "Frosty" and "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" while the combined choirs of Vancouver high schools performed as one.

"As wet as it is, there's still a lot of people here. That's pretty cool," said John Reed, 53, of Vancouver, who came to watch his daughter perform in the choir.

Some people huddled under tents to keep dry. Some danced in the puddle-filled brick square.

"We decided to brave it anyway because we heard there was hot chocolate," said Amy Surface of Vancouver. She brought her son, Jack, 7, and her daughter, Emily, 5, who wore matching red raincoats and eagerly awaited Santa.

High school volunteers working with the Rotary Club dressed as elves and handed out candy canes to kids. The Esther Short Express took children on train rides around the park.

Sander Feinberg, 60, and his wife, Amethyst, 61, dried off after the community lighting in the Hilton Vancouver Washington, where the Vancouver Pops Orchestra put on a concert.

"I told my husband I wanted to take him on a little Christmas date tonight," Amethyst said.

She said they witnessed a little holiday magic during the lighting ceremony. After Mayor Tim Leavitt spoke and Santa started to walk to the stage, the downpour lightened to a drizzle.

"I love seeing how the kids react when Santa comes in," she said.

With grandkids in Los Angeles, the Battle Ground couple got to live vicariously through the children who lit up when Santa walked through Propstra Square. He turned on the switch, illuminating the holiday tree with multicolored strands of more than 20,000 lights.

This marks the first year vendors came to the festival, offering goodies and holiday gifts. Peggy Moore of Peggy's Chocolates said the Downtown Holidazzle was a success as several people stopped by her booth to buy chocolate treats.

"It was a very fun atmosphere. It was fun to watch. It was fun to be a part of," she said.

She makes chocolates out of a factory behind her home in Orchards.

Patty Hastings: 360-735-4513;;