Downtown Tacoma Tree Lighting

By weeklyvolcano on December 1, 2006

Tacoma’s 60th tree lighting ceremony began small and built steadily, until the newly refurbished lobby at the Pantages was filled Thursday, Nov. 30.  There was also a large crowd outside under the tree, waiting for the ceremony to begin, not realizing the festivities were taking place mostly inside.

Treelightingone I overheard one crowd member say to another of the family-heavy atmosphere, “There are a lot of children here.  A lot.”

Many of those parents had been hoping for a parade, but that tradition has been postponed for a year, and may possibly span three Christmas tree lightings, next year: the Stadium tree, the Broadway Center tree, and a new tree in the Tollefson Plaza.

Lack of parade notwithstanding, the crowd was an events-producer pleaser, “about triple” the size it had been last year.

Inside the Pantages lobby, TAG’s Tacky Christmas Sweater Chorale led a sing-along of Christmas carols while sugarplum fairies, toys, snowflakes, and other cast members from the "Nutcracker" mingled with guests.  The Fort Lewis I Corps band took the stage, not in tacky Christmas sweaters, and played more carols while visually serving as a reminder of what the event commemorates â€" a long-term link between the military community surrounding Tacoma and the City of Tacoma. 

Treelightingtwo Brig. Gen. William Troy, representing I Corps at Ft Lewis, commented on the sad fact that 5,000 individuals from Fort Lewis are unable to celebrate the season here as they are in the Middle East. He reminded the crowd, “Their families are with us.”

He acknowledged of the supportive Tacoma community, “We feel that you care about us.”

Mayor Bill Baarsma spoke next.  Saying he wanted to  “give credit where credit is due,” he talked about the past.  In 1946, Mayor Harry P. Cain returned from the war, a decorated veteran, and wanted to create a tie between the Fort Lewis community and the city.  Mayor Baarsma acknowledged a similar military tie, that of his son’s service in Iraq with the Navy.  That tie between the supportive Tacoma community and the local military community is still a strong one, and the symbolism of the huge donated tree from Fort Lewis keeps the communities bonded.

Finally, David Fischer, executive director of the Broadway Center for the Performing Arts, acknowledged the new space the crowd gathered in, suggesting that the discussion had been held, “would there be enough room for this event?”  He answered his own question, “Last year, there wouldn’t have been.  This year, there is.”

With that, Santa was introduced to the crowd, and that jingling man led us all outside to a chorus of "Jingle Bells," which petered out by about the second chorus.

Treelightingthree In moments, the tree was lit, eliciting "oohs" and "ahhhhs" from the crowd in addition to sighs of relief from the present firefighters.

The crowd petered out just like the "Jingle Bells" singing, which meant the majority of the attendees missed some beautiful music from harpist Brianna Spargo and flutist Emily Levandowski, two talented Tacoma Youth Symphony musicians.

In the end, the tree sparkled in the Thursday night, even without a crowd of admirers, reminding me of the presence of communities supporting communities. â€" Jessica Corey-Butler

More photos of the downtown tree lighting on Kevin Freitas' blog.