Rick Wells as Santa Claus and Corvallis Knights mascot
Santa and Mack the Knight greet families as they pass by in vehicles. The Philomath Area Chamber of Commerce and sponsors of the tree-lighting brought a safe and needed event to the community Friday night. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

The Philomath Community Tree Lighting holds a special place in my heart. Back when I started to cover the community full-time in late 2014, the lighting of the tree represented my first assignment.

In the years since, it’s been an annual event that I’ve looked forward to covering. After those first couple of years, I’ll admit that it did become a challenge to write stories that would have new angles and not just a duplication of past reporting. Sure, you talk to a few people in attendance and review the fun stuff that occurred, but most reporters don’t just want to write the same story every year.

That wasn’t a problem this year with the uniqueness of the event. I could’ve interviewed some people in vehicles and chamber of commerce representatives helping out, but instead I chose to focus on the man who plays Santa Claus every year and then try to put together a photo gallery for a visual that we can enjoy.

I commend the Philomath chamber for hosting this event. I think it was safe and just gave people something to do that’s away from the house. The chamber works very hard to do good things for this community and the tree-lighting was the latest example. The sponsors that step up every year for this event should also be recognized — Shonnard’s, Oregon State Credit Union and Pacific Power.

Here are a few memories from my past coverage of the event:

• 2014 — Talking to folks who were in attendance, a few still had fresh memories of the former tree that had come down in 2007 at 19th and Main. But the tree in front of the museum was taking hold as a new twist on the tree tradition.

• 2015 — This year, I talked with Joel Shonnard for his perspective on what goes into setting up the tree every year and then hoping it illuminates with the countdown. I also remember that this was one of those years when we all had to persevere through wet weather.

• 2016 — The tree-lighting event celebrated its 10th year. This year, I talked to Debbie Thorpe, who was the chamber board president in 2007 when it was organized for the first time. I also recall there being a temporary tree for that first year before a permanent tree could be planted.

• 2017 — The event had a somewhat different vibe to it beginning in 2017. This was the first year that the elementary kids were there to sing some holiday songs.

• 2018 — Rylee Henderer sticks in my mind from this year. She’s a hometown girl who won the Philomath Frolic & Rodeo queen title and she was thrilled to be participating. The Frolic queen has usually been on hand to help Santa pass out candy canes.

• 2019 — This is the only Christmas tree-lighting event that I’ve missed, but I have a pretty good reason. My son, Jasper, was born in early December and it took me away from the job for a couple of weeks.

• 2020 — Well, this will be a memorable tree-lighting event primarily because it was just out of the ordinary with the pandemic not allowing groups of people to gather. So, a pretty quiet evening overall. Hopefully, things will be back to normal by the time this event arrives next year.

(Brad Fuqua is publisher and editor of the Philomath News. He can be reached at news@philomathnews.com).