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Tree lighting brings Santa, good cheer

Santa delights a group of children who came out for the annual tree lighting in Old Town Silverdale last Saturday. The  event is the traditional kick-off of the season in Central Kitsap County. - Seraine Page
Santa delights a group of children who came out for the annual tree lighting in Old Town Silverdale last Saturday. The event is the traditional kick-off of the season in Central Kitsap County.
— image credit: Seraine Page

Santa came to Silverdale over the weekend, and he did it in style, riding in to Old Town on a shiny red firetruck.

His appearance came during the 59th annual Silverdale Tree Lighting event, a tradition that drew hundreds despite chilly temperatures. With the arrival of jolly ole’ St. Nick, residents crowded behind yellow tape, eager to shake his hand and say hello.

At the end of the line, he stopped, and waited for the go-ahead to start his famous countdown. While looking to the tree adjacent to Silverdale Antiques, the crowd joined in on the countdown and cheered when the 131-foot tree was illuminated.

It is the third largest living lit tree in the world, according to locals. The tree will stay lit through the new year and is set on a timer.

“I’m glad to see it become more of a community event,” said Debbie Housen, Silverdale Antiques owner. “It’s nice.”

Housen’s parking lot served as the arrival site for Santa and several community clubs offering goodies to families. After the countdown, Santa made his way to a throne where youngins offered up their wish lists and a local photographer snapped photos.

Student choirs from Brownsville and Emerald Heights elementary schools filled the air with traditional Christmas carols, including “Here Comes Santa Claus” as a greeting to the man in red. While waiting for the big arrival, the scent of fresh kettle corn wafted over bundled up guests, many clutching cups of hot cocoa or apple cider.

Despite the cold weather, Bremerton resident Albert Frei stopped in to enjoy the holiday music and to support his sisters’ choral groups.

“I think it’s fun. I wish it wasn’t so cold,” said Frei. “I like listening to the music. It brings happiness.”

Starting around 2 p.m. on Saturday, various businesses opened their doors to the public for shopping, eating a few cookies and keeping warm between outside events.

Early in the day, Oxford Suites sponsored a hayride to and from the Silverdale Library, where children created their own Christmas cards. Lisa Stirrett also opened her doors to families to decorate Christmas cookies and sip hot chocolate or lemonade. Stirrett baked 300 cookies for kids visiting her studio during the holiday event.

 

For some, like Poulsbo resident Helen Sugrue, the event served as a reminder to slow down and appreciate the beauty of community.

Sugrue said that the holidays have been too commercialized in recent years, and it is time to get back into the true spirit of the holidays.

 

“It’s great the whole community is together. It’s a great turnout,” Sugrue said, looking around. “The department stores commercialize. I like old-fashioned Christmas.”

Sugrue came with her daughter, Thelma Corbin, to the event. Corbin’s daughter, Emily, sang with the Brownsville Elementary choir. Corbin said she wanted her daughter to have exposure to events that show a sense of community.

Holiday gatherings like the tree lighting is an easy way to slow down during the holiday craze, she remarked.

“It has that small-town feel,” said Corbin.

Over the years, the organizing party for the event has changed, but the spirit behind the event has remained.

Bill Seelow served as the caretaker of the huge, beloved Douglas Fir tree for 50 years, but stopped in recent years due to his ailing health.

Seelow once owned an electrical shop near the site of the tree, and he decided to join in with the local fire department in decorating it. Once the fire department got busy with other tasks, Seelow saw to it that the job got done.

“Many years I hired tree climbers. I bought the lightbulbs,” he said. “It’s a big job. You gotta start in the middle of summer getting it all ready.”

If it weren’t old age, Seelow would still be the leader of getting the tree decorated. Nowadays, he leaves it up to the Silverdale Dandy Lions, Silverdale Rotary, Silverdale Chamber of Commerce and the Silverdale Kiwanis clubs to get the event going.

“It’s just been a wonderful experience,” he said. “I’d do it all over again.”

 

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