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Walking through the downtown Redding Mall with my daughter in one hand and my hungry camera in the other we leaned into a whistling wind searching for our familiar Redding Christmas tradition: The Lighting of “The Tree.”
[cue the Witch’s Theme here…] The adventure was about to twist!
The rains held off as we headed to a surprisingly empty parking lot with a shadowy, shapeless, lonely giant of a tree. We headed down to the always cozy Downtown Java to maybe find out if the Grinch strangely stole our Christmas tradition. After we politely awaited the crooning Elvis impersonator to finish his rendition of “Blue Christmas” the expert baristas there assured us the festivity portion was alive and going on indoors this year – just a block away.
As we journeyed on we watched three teenage girls skipping downwind in time to their improvised carol of, “Let it blow, let it blow, let it blow.” With the headlined 2012 “atmospheric river” of a storm abating somewhat, Iliana and I had never heard of an indoor Downtown Redding tree lighting ceremony before, so we dared to seek the Wizard of Oz of course – and we followed those singing munchkins down the leafy brick road.
Jeter’s Playground and Events Extaordinaire, located in the old Need To Speed location – or to us old-timers, Dicker’s Clothing store – were like pillars of the “Emerald City,” as they hosted the indoor portion of the annual Downtown Redding Christmas festivities. From 5:00PM until about 6:50PM kids of all ages watched and participated in a cavalcade of singing, dancing and wonder for all the wide-eyed young ones. Then… the windy walk back to, “The Tree.”
For others the tree lighting was a bit warmer with an inside view. Sheila Robinson, Quality Assurance manager at Shasta QA (and a family relative) kindly invited us in for a warm and hospitable break just before the lighting of, “The Tree.” From what we could see Shasta QA had THE bird’s-eye view of the upcoming display.
Just before the count it was hard to tell who was taller: the tree, or Viva Downtown’s John Truitt as he called up the colorful carolers to appease the anxious holiday revelers. To the crowd, the carolers, won hands down. The count, however, was totally owned by the kids in the hearty crowd. “Five, four, three, two… O N E … MERRY CHRISTMAS!”
Whew! No Grinch. The lighting happened for my daughter again, just as it had many times before when our mom walked us kids to downtown in the ’50s and ’60s.
All in all Friday’s 2012 Christmas Tree lighting event was a comfy walk down memory lane for many snuggled adults. And for the real stars of tonights gala, the kids, it was a memorable beginning of what a warm, local tradition can be.
You know? There’s no place like home.
Alan Ernesto Phillips is a proud son of Shasta County, a proud father of two daughters, and a local musician. He is a parenting educator, chemical-dependency counselor, victim-awareness counselor and developmental-asset builder and trainer. He also is a Clio and Telly award-winning filmmaker who produced and directed political campaigns for congressmen, senators, governors and one president (Ronald Reagan). His clients also included Coca-Cola, NIKE, CBS News and NOVA documentaries. He is a current board member and public affairs officer for the Northern California Hispanic Latino Coalition.