Christmas at the Park attracts more than a thousand

By Jessica Prokop, Columbian Courts Reporter

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Five-year-old Aspen Bacon looked over her handiwork before taking a bite out of her Christmas tree-shaped sugar cookie.

“I put way too many sprinkles on mine,” Aspen said, as green frosting dripped onto her jacket.

“It’s worth it,” said Lily, her 7-year-old sister, who nibbled on a cookie of her own.

The inspiration for their cookie decor was most obviously Christmas — each went with the classic red-and-green color scheme.

The cookie-decorating was just one of the free activities at Activate Church’s sixth annual Christmas at the Park event, held Friday night in Esther Short Park.

More than a thousand people milled around Propstra Square, lining up to take photos with Santa, decorate ornaments, grab hot cocoa and snag a Christmas tree.

Last year, the event attracted about 4,000 people, volunteer Aubrey Schneider said, and was expected to again bring out thousands.

“I do feel like we have a lot more,” she added of this year’s turnout. She said that when the event started, it attracted a small number of people, “And now it’s grown into this. I think it’s awesome.”

Schneider said Activate handed out 200 donated trees, which were gone within the first half-hour of the event.

Sarah Sutton, 39, and her family got in line 45 minutes early to ensure they received a free Christmas tree. And they were successful. In fact, they came away with some of the last available trees.

“Hence, the very Charlie Brown tree,” Sutton joked.

Her aunt, Charlene Rodriguez, 53, tried to figure out the logistics of how she would fit the tall, gangly tree into her apartment. The solution: another family member traded their smaller tree for Rodriguez’s.

“I think it’s awesome. It’s wonderful this community does this,” said Rodriguez, who recently moved to Vancouver from Portland. “It’s the best thing I’ve ever seen.”

In addition to the free trees, Activate set up a giving tree on which 250 families could write down the items they need for their children this holiday season, Schneider said. They could also sign up for meal boxes and choose from a rack of donated winter wear.

“You just get to love people,” she said, “and be here during the holiday season, doing what it’s all about.”