• Twinkling lights glow this evening on city's holiday tree • Switch symbolically sets in motion a start to the season

It all began 35 years ago in the Coast Range forest near Yamhill.

That's when a Douglas fir sapling took root. Eventually, it would grow to 70 feet before being selected as Portland's official holiday tree for 2002.

The tree arrived 11 days ago. Since then, 10 employees of Pioneer Courthouse Square and a team of specialists from Hollywood Lights have been preparing it for tonight's lighting ceremony.

It seems that 2,000-plus years have not been enough for Mother Nature to perfect the art of growing a holiday tree. Consequently, branches were removed from the lower portion of the tree so they wouldn't be crushed during the trip to Portland. Once the tree was positioned in the square, the branches were reattached, and the work of stringing the 4,000 lights began.

All of the hard work turns into magic at 5:30 p.m. today. Singer Melody Guy will perform holiday carols. Forty minutes later, the countdown will begin. With the mere flick of a politician's wrist, the tree's lights will come to life along with 13,000 other strings of light perched in more than 700 downtown trees.

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