Cold, wet weather didn’t keep Tumwater residents away from their tree lighting festival.
If anything, Saturday’s rain drove more people than usual to the Tumwater Fire Station to listen to choirs sing, decorate cookies and make ornaments at the city’s 14th Christmas Tree Lighting Festival.
“It’s perfect weather for an event like this,” said recreation manager Kathryn Baria. “I think we have more people than usual.”
This year, the event drew an estimated 1,500 people. The main draw for most families is the performances, said recreation manager Todd Anderson. Four local elementary schools took the stage Saturday afternoon: Littlerock Elementary, East Olympia Elementary, Tumwater Hill Elementary and Peter G. Schmidt Elementary.
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“There aren’t a ton of opportunities for the elementary kids to perform,” Anderson said. “So they love it, and their parents do, too.”
Anna Wilson took her three grandchildren to the festival and watched her 11-year-old granddaughter perform. She expects to watch grandchildren perform for the next few years, but she said she’ll keep coming even when they’re not onstage.
“I’m so glad they do this,” Wilson said. “There’s so much holiday cheer.”
Her 7-year-old grandson, Kamran Revey, enjoyed decorating cookies. He selected a large, bell shaped cookie, and said he added green frosting first. He then added red frosting and M&Ms.
Kamran said he looked forward to eating his cookie.
Rylee Denney and Pearse Popchock, both 15, also enjoyed the cookie decorating station. The Black Hills High School sophomores heard about the event from a friend and decided to volunteer.
Denney said cookie decorating was very popular with the younger children, and they were busy most of the afternoon. Both teens said they volunteered for fun and out of a sense of duty to their community.
“I think helping out the community is a really important part of being a citizen,” Popchock said.
The actual tree lighting and arrival of Santa are also popular, Anderson said. Santa arrived on a vintage fire engine about 5 p.m., then handed out candy to the waiting children.
None of it would be possible without the support of the Tumwater Fire Department, he said. Firefighters happily move the engines outside for the day to allow the community to gather indoors.