Tree Lighting Ceremony returns to Stockton after COVID-19 hiatus

·4 min read

The city of Stockton hosted its annual Tree Lighting Ceremony Saturday at Weber Point Events Center.

Community members had already begun to line up outside the point’s gates a few minutes before 4 p.m., when they officially opened.

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Familiar faces and businesses were present for the return of the city's popular event. Stockton’s city council members, City Manager Harry Black and Mayor Kevin Lincoln attended. Community photographer Tim Ulmer made rounds around, capturing good moments as people enjoyed the event.

Surrounding them and the crowd, Hatch Workshop had crafts for kids; Madd Lids sold hats to customers; and an array of local entrepreneurs sold their soap, beauty products, T-shirts, treats and snacks.

Jessica Hughes, 51, took her three grandkids — Audrey, 6; Austin, 2; and Averi, 1, — to the city’s event “for the kids to see Santa and see the lights,” she said. After their photo with Santa, Hughes’ grandchildren hopped and danced around. She noted how happy they were and started singing when they heard a Christmas song they knew.

People play under a "snow" making machine  at the City of Stockton's annual holiday tree lighting ceremony at the Weber Point Events Center in downtown Stockton.
People play under a "snow" making machine at the City of Stockton's annual holiday tree lighting ceremony at the Weber Point Events Center in downtown Stockton.

“We saw the event (posted) on Facebook,” and decided to come out and enjoy the evening, said Desiree Garcia, 29. “We come to the parade every year, to the boat show,” she said. She likes attending because she enjoys the treats, hot chocolate and her kids have fun.

In past years, “Santa used to come in a firetruck,” Sherri Woodruff said. “The kids used to like it more.” Yet she and her family still decided to attend.

“They (the kids) want to see Santa every year,” James Woodruff said of their sons, Charles, 8, and Xavier, 5.

Just past 4:30 p.m., the Merry Olde Christmas Carolers took the stage. The group — formed by Antony Tavianini, David Daigh, Lori and Amy Wolfey — sang traditional favorites like "Silent Night" and "Frosty the Snowman." “Everybody is so appreciative in an event like this; it brings out the Christmas spirit,” Lori Wolfey said.

Attendees sported holiday hats, gloves, jackets and boots as they layered their winter wardrobe. A few were more tolerant of the cold — a snippy 50 degrees — wearing short–sleeved shirts and shorts as the fog came and went.

While dogs and strollers made the rounds around Weber Point, event attendees could get their photo with Santa, a cup of hot chocolate, shop around the holiday market or pose for a photo in the photo booth close to the stage.

About 4:50 p.m., attendees gathered around the stage, setting up their foldable chairs at their selected spots to enjoy treats and snacks as the carolers sang, while waiting for the tree to be lit up. The carolers finished singing at 4:55 p.m.. Five minutes later, four foam snow machines started whirling, projecting bubbly snow onto the crowd.

Kids ran, giggled and played under the foam as "Feliz Navidad" by José Feliciano played on the stage’s speakers. A slight breeze made the fake snow dance across Weber Point, at moments it very much resembled a real snow flurry when flying against the holiday lights.

 Mayor Kevin Lincoln gives a countdown at the City of Stockton's annual holiday tree lighting ceremony at the Weber Point Events Center in downtown Stockton.
Mayor Kevin Lincoln gives a countdown at the City of Stockton's annual holiday tree lighting ceremony at the Weber Point Events Center in downtown Stockton.

Lincoln walked among the foam flurry, greeting and taking photos with the community. By 5:10 p.m., foam snow stopped being produced, leaving kids, teens and parents alike with spongey halos attached to their hats, hoodies, beanies and hair.

The crowd then gradually thickened, with somewhere between 150 to 200 people standing together at once depending on the flow as some went to buy food, parade light toys and stocking stuffers.

At 5:33 p.m. Lincoln, Black and Stockton council members were called to the stage while the crowd buzzed in anticipation to see the 24-foot tree be lit up.

“Christmas is a season of love, gratitude, and unity,” Lincoln said. “There is nothing that warms my heart up like seeing the community gathered.”

After last year’s tree lighting event was canceled because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, “I am so glad we were able to do this (event) this year,” councilman Dan Wright said.

After each council member — accompanied by their family — addressed the crowd, Lincoln ignited the crowd with emotion, chanting together, “light the tree!” before leading the countdown. As soon as the tree’s lights lit up the crowd erupted in cheers, sparklers went off on stage, and the foam snow began flying among the crowd again.

Attendees danced, celebrated and chatted as they waited for the Lighted Boat Parade to start. At 5:50 p.m., the line to access Weber Point went down the block on North Center Street as more community members waited to get into the already successful and well-attended event.

The City of Stockton's annual holiday tree is lit during a ceremony at the Weber Point Events Center in downtown Stockton.
The City of Stockton's annual holiday tree is lit during a ceremony at the Weber Point Events Center in downtown Stockton.

Record reporter Laura Diaz covers social justice and societal issues. She can be reached at ldiaz@recordnet.com or on Twitter @laurasdiaz_. Support local news, subscribe to The Stockton Record at https://www.recordnet.com/subscribenow.

This article originally appeared on The Record: Stockton celebrates holidays with Tree Lighting Ceremony

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