There are changes wafting in the wintry air for this year’s Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony.
The biggest of them is that this year’s festivities will be managed by the Idyllwild Community Center, with Chris Perreault chairing the entertainment activities planned for the event.
The second is that the tree that will be brilliantly lit is the sequoia near Fratello’s, not the tree that has long been the center of the celebration. For years, the town Christmas tree has been slowly losing its vitality, kept in some measure of health by the heroic efforts of Phyllis Mueller and others.
Also, according to Perreault, this year’s festivities are planned to be more casual and interactive, giving attendees the chance to meander and mix with Christmas characters at various photo opportunities within and around Idypark. “We’ll have three smaller stages at points around the park, each with Christmas musical entertainment,” said Perreault. Photo settings include a Christmas sleigh, the North Pole Post Office, a Gingerbread House and a log cabin.
For meandering and mixing, there will be Dickens characters, a gingerbread man, elves, a reindeer and other holiday characters with whom families and children can have their pictures taken. For the not so faint of heart, the Idy Beast will furtively lurk and skulk around, joined, I am told, by his girlfriend the Heidi Beast.
Diane Burt’s Caroling Company will be featured lofting their impeccably sung Christmas fare, including famous carols written by Burt’s father, Alfred Burt. There will be many opportunities for attendees to sing carols at any one of the three stages said Perreault.
In short, the Tree Lighting will be more laid back than in years past, with no program on a main stage around which celebrants must gather and wait for the arrival of Santa Claus and the tree to be lit. The event begins at 4 p.m. and runs to 6 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 24.
Also, according to Perreault the tree will be lit as soon as it is dark, so that people can stroll around bathed in its light enjoying the Christmas ambience. “The fence throughout the park will also be lit,” said Perreault. “It will be beautiful.”
Santa will be ensconced at the Gazebo in Village Centre, hosted by the Soroptimists, according to Perreault, during the afternoon and throughout the ceremony times.
Vendor booths will surround the park. “We’ll have 16 booths helmed by local organizations including the Art Alliance, Forest Folk, Living Free, Animal Rescue Friends of Idyllwild, the Idyllwild Association of Realtors, Mountain Quilters, Idyllwild Fire Protection District, Spirit Mountain Retreat and others,” said Reba Coulter.
The 52nd-annual Harvest Festival by Rotary International of Idyllwild is from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, Nov. 23, and from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 24, at the Idyllwild School gymnasium. The free event features arts, crafts and food booths, and raffles.
From noon to 3 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 22, the American Legion Post 800 will host a free Thanksgiving dinner for the public.
Mark your calendars, dress warmly, drink in the music, the lights and the crisp mountain air — it’s Idyllwild at Christmas.