The Philomath community Christmas tree lights up a rainy night sky on Tuesday in front of the museum. (Photo by Eric Niemann)

The 2022 version of the Community Christmas Tree Celebration turned out to be a wet and chilly experience but a decent crowd still showed up on the lawn of the Philomath Museum to welcome the holiday season.

Pretty much the same scenes unfold each year with Philomath Fire & Rescue giving Santa Claus a ride to the event so he can meet with kids and hand out candy canes. The Philomath Frolic & Rodeo queen has been a frequent participant by lending a hand to Santa. Mack the Knight, the mascot of the Corvallis Knights summer baseball team, has maintained a consistent presence through the years. Then we have the elementary school kids singing and people enjoying hot cocoa and cookies.

And of course, the main attraction of the evening — the countdown to the lighting of the Christmas tree.

The tree-lighting event, which is organized each year by the Philomath Area Chamber of Commerce, holds a special place in my heart. During the last week of November 2014, I started my new job as editor of the Philomath Express, a newspaper that would launch in January 2015. I spent those first five weeks coming up with a design for the news pages, setting up a functional website and organizing all of the other components from establishing a social media presence to contacting news and sports sources.

A big part of those early weeks was just getting out and meeting the public. In my mind, that included my attendance at special events and meetings. So on Dec. 2, 2014, I volunteered to head to Philomath’s Community Christmas Tree Celebration even though the Express wouldn’t debut for another month. The story was used as the front page centerpiece in the Corvallis Gazette-Times.

In that very same edition on the front page right next to the Christmas tree-lighting ceremony coverage was the announcement that Philomath would be getting its own newspaper.

Santa Claus takes time out of his busy holiday schedule each year to meet with children at the Philomath Community Christmas Tree Lighting Celebration. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

The Philomath Express lasted six years and nine months before Lee Enterprises shut it down and a few months later, I started up the Philomath News.

So yeah, this event every year reminds me how my love affair with Philomath started on that evening in 2014.

Since then, I’ve made it to all but one of the tree-lighting ceremonies:

• Dec. 2, 2014 — As I just wrote, this was the first one for me. Local resident David Novak told me how he loves the event to be able to connect with neighbors. Chamber president Alyssa Lewis talked about how the tree-lighting carries on what had become an annual tradition.

• Dec. 1, 2015 — This was the wettest tree-lighting ceremony that I had ever attended. Joel Shonnard told me about flipping the switch to light up the tree on the big night and how he feared that something could go wrong.

• Nov. 29, 2016 — Cold temperatures greeted those who came out to celebrate this year. Since the event had reached its 10th year, I decided to tell the story of how the celebration started with people like then-chamber president Debbie Thorpe and former mayor Chris Nusbaum taking me back to 2007.

Philomath Elementary students entertains the crowd with their singing talents. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

• Dec. 4, 2017 — Again, pretty cold temperatures on the evening of the celebration. I found a couple of people who had gone to most of the tree-lighting events over the years, including Wren resident Carey Oien. I believe it was the first year that the chamber had brought in the kids from the elementary school to sing.

• Dec. 3, 2018 — The celebration had one of its bigger crowds this year even though those temps were in the low 30s. This year’s event was the final one for Heath Honeycutt, a Philomath High graduate who served as the deejay, even participating the previous couple of years even though he had moved to Dallas.

• Dec. 2, 2019 — This was the only year that I wasn’t able to cover the event. But I had a pretty good excuse — we were busy adding to our family with Jasper born the following morning.

• Dec. 4, 2020 — The tree-lighting celebration occurred just four days after the launch of the Philomath News. This time around, I landed an in-depth interview with Santa Claus himself as the featured subject of the story. We were also nine months into the COVID pandemic, but instead of canceling it, the chamber opted to forge ahead with a modified drive-through event.

A youngster reaches for a treat from the cookie table. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

• Dec. 3, 2021 — The celebration returned to a physical event with many people choosing to wear masks and various safety measures in place (for example, the cookies were individually wrapped). The mainstays were back with Santa riding in on Old No. 1, the kids singing and of course, the countdown.

• Nov. 29, 2022 — That brings us to this year. I hobbled around with a sore quad from a workout earlier in the day and had to break out the camera’s rain gear to try to keep it dry. It was certainly not as bad as the 2015 downpour but still a wet evening nonetheless.

See you next year.

(Brad Fuqua is publisher/editor of the Philomath News. He can be reached at News@PhilomathNews.com).

Brad Fuqua, Philomath News

Brad Fuqua has covered the Philomath area since 2014 as the editor of the now-closed Philomath Express and currently as publisher/editor of the Philomath News. He has worked as a professional journalist since 1988 at daily and weekly newspapers in Nebraska, Kansas, North Dakota, Arizona, Montana and Oregon.