Last Saturday, a team of volunteers installed 4,500 lights (500 more than last year) onto and mounted the giant star atop the 100-foot Sequoia that serves as the center-piece for Idyllwild’s 54th-annual Tree Lighting Ceremony.
The ceremony, sponsored by Soroptimist International of Idyllwild, starts at 4:20 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 29. But a full day of festivities begins at 10 a.m. in the center of the village.
The ceremony has a rich history in Idyllwild and the festival, put on entirely by more than 200 volunteers, is the culmination of a year of intense preparation and planning. Event Chair Phyllis Mueller is tasked with preparing a memorable celebration for thousands of Hill folk and visitors. “I have a 200-page document on how to run the Tree Lighting Ceremony, all the elements of it,” Mueller said. “It is more detail than you’d ever want to know. That’s why it takes a couple of hundred people to do it.”
This is Mueller’s third year at the helm of the event and she promises a day filled with wonder and excitement for the entire family. Mueller and husband, Glenn Warren, are best known in Idyllwild as chiefs of staff to Idyllwild’s Mayor Max and Deputy Mayors Mitzi and Mikey (three golden retrievers) who will be on hand to greet the crowds and hand out “Mini Me” stuffed animals, while supplies last. Animal Rescue Friends of Idyllwild will be on hand to remind families of the importance of the rescue and adoption of homeless animals.
Beginning at 10 a.m. strolling carolers will roam the village singing Christmas favorites as visitors enjoy the morning with friends and family. The Idyllwild Fire Department will deliver Santa and Mrs. Claus, and several of Santa’s elves, via fire truck to their workshop located at the Gazebo in the Village Center Plaza. Two Santa’s workshop sessions will be held so that all children have a chance to meet Santa; the first is from noon to 2 p.m. and the second from 4:45 to 6:30 p.m. (or until the last child in line has had a visit with Santa). Santa’s elves will hand out candy canes to the children visiting Mr. and Mrs. Claus.
Long-time Idyllwild resident and local treasure Marge Muir is in charge of the Children’s Santa Program. Muir has lived in Idyllwild since 1957 and recalls lighting a tree every year since she has lived here. Last Friday, Muir along with long-time local Emily Pearson and her family’s Pearson Wood Services, installed Christmas lights on the children’s tree located at The Fort on the corner of N. Circle Drive and Highway 243. At last year’s ceremony, Santa visited with more than 300 children.
More than 20 local charities will host festive booths offering everything from one-of-a-kind gift items to tasty food and baked goods to raise funds for their charity. It’s the perfect time for holiday shopping at the many shops and stores throughout the village, all decorated in the spirit of the holiday. For more shopping opportunities head over to Town Hall on Cedar Street for the Rotary Club of Idyllwild’s Harvest Festival that runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The Tree Lighting Ceremony is at the corner of N. Circle and Village Center drives on Jo’An’s Restaurant property in the center of town. The program will begin with a reading by Doug Austin and The Olde English Theatre Players of “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.” Dianne Burt’s Grammy-nominated The Caroling Company will be on hand to entertain the crowd and lead the audience in a sing-along of some holiday standards and the Idyllwild Children’s Choir (ages 3-6) will take the stage to sing renditions of “Jingle Bells,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.”
Mueller promises there will be a lot more for our holiday guests. “I haven’t told you everything that’s going on because we have some surprises in store,” she said with a wink.
Following the Tree Lighting Ceremony, with weather permitting, Mueller and her volunteers have planned a concert featuring local and visiting performers for people who want to stay and enjoy more holiday cheer and music.