On a pleasant evening on the front lawn of the local museum Friday night, Philomath launched into the holiday season with its traditional Christmas tree lighting celebration. Festive singing by a group of local schoolchildren, youngsters enjoying treats, a special visit from Santa Claus and of course, the countdown to the tree lighting up highlighted the evening.
An annual event at this location since 2007, many residents have included the tree-lighting evening as a must stop on their holiday season schedule.
Five years ago, Michelle and Jarrett Krantz were among those that enjoyed the event. But then they had to move to Spokane, Washington, to take care of personal business. Now, they’re back where they want to be following the recent purchase of a home here in Philomath.
“In Spokane, you don’t get stuff like this,” Jarrett said.
“We don’t have any (extended) family here … we have our little family,” Michelle said. “So, we’re spending time together and we’ll celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.”
Local resident Michael Inocencio came out to the event with his family to see “Santa and the community getting together to have a good time.” Christmas to him is all about “helping other people out, helping people in need and seeing kids happy.”
Philomath residents Joe and Liz McMahon were also at the event to take advantage of an opportunity to be outside among neighbors. For them, Christmas is about “getting together with family,” Joe said, adding, “but unfortunately, everybody’s in a tizzy over all of the corona stuff.”
It’s true, the pandemic has taken a toll on opportunities to celebrate and be around other people. Last year, the tree-lighting celebration was limited to a drive-through event with Santa only able to wave to children from a distance and tree already lit up in advance.
This year’s event was back to a full, in-person event with the countdown. A fair number of people chose to wear masks although they are no longer required outdoors. Earlier this week, Benton County aligned with the governor’s office on the latest rules that state “masks or face coverings are no longer required to be worn in outdoor public settings, even when social distancing is not possible.”
Hosted by the Philomath Area Chamber of Commerce, the tree-lighting celebration also featured Frolic & Rodeo royalty and the Corvallis Knights mascot. Chamber members donated cookies. And Santa rode up in Philomath Fire & Rescue’s Old No. 5 to pass out candy canes and pose for photos with children.
As far as the tree itself, Chris Shonnard reported that the giant sequoia planted in November 2008 — grew 5-1/2 feet over the last year. It is now 56 feet in height. (A temporary tree was in place the first year).
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