Maybe there’s 12,000 lights on the holiday tree in Esther Short Park. Maybe 20,000. In any case, after the ceremonial flipping of the switch Nov. 29, the tree will glow as a beacon of holiday spirit.
The Rotary Club of Vancouver kicks off its annual Community Tree Lighting celebration at 4 p.m. The event culminates at 6 p.m. with Santa’s arrival and the illumination of the tree.
Rotary’s official press release says the tree is strung with 12,000 lights. But who’s counting?
Not Jeff St. Mary. He and his company, now part of All Clean! SoftWash, have been stringing the lights for the past 14 years. Over that time, the tree has grown from about 75 to 90 feet tall. The job has literally become bigger every year.
A lot of the work takes place behind the scenes, including sorting lights and replacing broken and burnt-out bulbs — but not counting, St. Mary said. He estimates that it takes 20,000 lights to cover the tree. His crew wraps the strings of lights around each branch so wind won’t cause so much rustling that it snaps them.
Squirrels can also pose a threat to a fully lit tree. St. Mary no longer tries to get the lights up early. That gives squirrels a chance to chew through the wire, as they did one year, resulting in several strands staying dark when the switch flipped at the tree lighting.
“Now we do it as close to the date as possible to get a better results,” St. Mary said. “It’s been a love hate relationship for me each year. Once they’re all up and working, I’m happy.”
Entertainers, Santa Claus
The community tree lighting used to accompany the Festival of Trees, which was a big fundraiser for Rotary. The service organization dropped the Festival of Trees a couple of years ago, but continues the tree lighting as a service to the community.
“We really encourage everybody to come out and bring their families and enjoy themselves to kick off the holiday season,” said David Konz, a Rotary member who is helping organize the event.
Various entertainers will take the stage at 4 p.m. to build excitement for Santa’s arrival. Anna and Elsa from the animated Disney “Frozen” movies will serenade the audience, as will various school choirs. Vancouver showman and bandleader David Cooley and his “Cooley Show” will sing holiday standards.
After the tree lighting, the festivities continue at the Hilton Vancouver Washington, where Vancouver Pops will play rousing renditions of holiday tunes in a free concert that begins at 6:20 p.m.
Holiday Market, Divine Consign
An indoor holiday market hosted by the Vancouver Farmers Market will continue there throughout the weekend.
Divine Consign picked up the tradition of raffling off fully decorated trees to benefit local charities. You can check out seven Christmas trees on display at the store during regular business hours and purchase $5 raffle tickets for a chance to win one. The trees are decorated by nonprofits, including the Humane Society for Southwest Washington and Friends of Hospice, which receive the proceeds.
If you don’t get your fill of merriment this weekend, you can find more along Vancouver’s Main Street in the coming weeks.
The Uptown Village Association’s Reindeer Block Party, a free event featuring two live reindeer, will be 1 to 4 p.m. Dec. 8 on Main Street between 23rd and 24th streets.
“As in years past, we want to offer the chance for children to meet Santa and two of his sleigh-pullers and enjoy a free cup of hot cocoa,” said block party coordinator Phil Hopkins of Laurus Wealth Management.
Then the following weekend, a dozen Uptown Village businesses will participate in the annual Ugly Sweater Pub Crawl from 4 to 9 p.m. Dec. 15. You can take any route you want along upper Main Street, but plan to reach Trap Door Brewing, 2315 Main St., at 9 p.m. for a chance at the “ugliest sweater” award.