News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Holiday season launches

More than 700 gathered at Fir Street Park the day after Thanksgiving to celebrate the annual tree lighting, a long-standing and growing Sisters Country tradition. Following a “three, two, one” countdown led by Mayor Michael Preedin, the 65-foot tree burst into luminance with 2,500 shimmering white bulbs at 5:50 p.m.

During welcoming remarks — less than three minutes by design — Preedin acknowledged the crowd size, by all accounts the largest ever.

“I personally counted 843,” the Mayor said facetiously, although he was not far off the mark.

According to Jan Holland, Sisters Park & Recreation District (SPRD) executive director, the count well exceeded 700. The Nugget’s unofficial count was closer to Preedin’s. But numbers alone didn’t tell the tale — that lay in the high spirits of the crowd.

Mother Nature forced everybody into sweaters and parkas. Although dry, the temps were high 40s with close to an 8 mph wind making it feel colder. Sponsor Hayden Homes provided hot chocolate and the line was steadily 50 deep.

The conversation was, as one would expect, mostly stories of how Thanksgiving Day was spent and what plans were for the December holidays. All were in a bright, festive mood with an abundance of hugs and back patting.

Dozens of dogs took part in the festivities; there were scores of strollers and toddlers on parents’ shoulders for better views.

Holland opened the ceremony promptly at 5:30 p.m. It had been preceded by recorded carols and popular Christmas songs delivered by soundman DJ Chuck Boogie. Following remarks from Hayden Homes community managers and Preedin, Peggy Tehan, SPRD (event organizers) board chair, took to the stage with her ukulele for some holiday songs.

This was the moment during the event when the deficiency in the sound system was most prevalent. Given the size of the crowd, at least two hundred more than last year’s happening, the audience filled the space clear to the sidewalk on Main Avenue. Those in the back rows could only guess what was happening on stage.

Holland intends to beef up the sound output next year. She gave glowing reviews of City staff who prepped the park. Likewise she had praise for the event’s previous organizer for 21 years, Sisters Area Chamber of Commerce.

The High Desert Chorale took the stage for two songs. They were 25 in strength, about half their full roster. The audience joined in as they sang a medley: “Childhood Christmas Favorites (Frosty the Snow Man, Santa Claus Is Coming to Town, and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer).” They followed with “Glow,” a Christmas song that served as a pre-show to Disney’s “World of Color: Winter Dreams.”

The event, as in years past, drew visitors from long distances. Carol and Greg Duskin were on hand from British Columbia along with their daughter, Elise, from Madison, Wisconsin. They were part of a large family gathering from as far away as Michigan, which takes place regularly in Sisters. This was their fourth or fifth tree lighting participation.

“It’s so celebratory,” Carol said with agreement from Greg and Elise. “You don’t find this kind of thing very often, even in other small towns,” Greg added. “What’s happening tonight is special. We’re really glad to be here and be part of it.”

The Crenshaws from Bremerton, Washington, were also delighted, as were many other long-distance observers. Mom and dad Jesse and Randy had kiddos Harper Lee (5) and Mattie Lou (3) in tow, along with cousin Brayden Wilson (5) from Bend. It was part of a recurring holiday visit to Sisters grandparents Bill and Lee Kelly.

“No way we miss this,” Randy said. “It is just a lot of fun and very meaningful, a real family tradition.”


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