When Mayor Anne McEnerny-Ogle was looking for help lighting the Christmas tree in Esther Short Park, she knew just who to call: Vancouver’s very own princess.
So on a chilly Friday evening, Princess Pearle, 2, and McEnerny-Ogle — with some additional help from Santa — flipped the switch to light the city’s Christmas tree and ring in the holiday season.
“This is one of those times when everyone is so joyful and happy,” McEnerny-Ogle said. “It’s always a wonderful event so full of people from all over.”
McEnerny-Ogle estimated more than 5,000 people came out to the tree lighting, and perhaps none were more excited for the actual event than Pearle Wyckoff, designated by the mayor in late summer as the city’s princess. Casey Wyckoff, father of the princess, said Pearle had been practicing with a light up tree in her room leading up to Friday night. She was so excited she went from telling people she was going to light the Christmas tree to saying she was “going to light it up with the mayor.”
The Rotary Club of Vancouver organized the annual Community Tree Lighting, which featured an estimated 12,000 lights strung up on a 90-foot tree in the park. All Clean! SoftWash have been stringing the lights for the past 14 years, and learned the hard way not to do so too early, or else squirrels have more time to chew through the wires.
“It’s lit up so much so I don’t think the squirrels got to them this year,” McEnerny-Ogle said. “Sometimes the tree can look a bit sad, like the ‘Charlie Brown’ tree. But it’s our tree, and it’s just such a joyful night to have so many out to see it decorated like this.”
The festivities weren’t limited to the tree lighting Friday night. Anna and Elsa from “Frozen” sang for the crowd, as did a few school choirs. Local singer David Cooley and his “Cooley Show” helped warm up the crowd for Santa by having a dance party to some upbeat holiday classics.
Over in the Hilton Vancouver Washington, the Vancouver Community Concert Band performed for people trying to get out of the cold or visit the holiday market. After the tree lighting, Vancouver Pops played a free concert in the hotel.
A group from City Harvest Church prepared more than 70 gallons of hot cider and brought around 2,000 cups with them, both of which were completely gone by the end of the night.
While it was cold Friday night, it was cold and clear, much more preferable to cold and rainy like in the past, McEnerny-Ogle said. The chilliness didn’t deter families from waiting in line for the horse-drawn carriage ride, now in its second year at the event.
Addison Zeller, 9, of Vancouver and her family waited roughly an hour and a half for the ride. As they waited, Addison found herself in the perfect position to see Santa arrive at the park on a Vancouver Fire Department fire engine. Santa even held her hand for a few seconds. Addison said she had fun on the carriage ride, even if it did go faster than she expected.
“It was worth the wait,” she said. “The decorations all around the park were really neat to see from the ride.”