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The magic of the season

Record crowd shows up for 47th annual holiday kickoff
by: VERN UYETAKE Barb and Bastian Wagner of Lake Oswego enjoy the lights and music  at Friday’s tree lighting festivities at Millennium Plaza Park.

While many of the scenes on Black Friday featured gnarled knots of frustrated humanity desperately seeking the best deals for Christmas shopping, things were much different in Lake Oswego.

Oh, the crowd was huge for the 47th annual Lake Oswego Chamber of Commerce Holiday Tree Lighting. Mayor Jack Hoffman ebulliently announced that a new attendance record had been set for the event, and chamber president Chuck O'Leary said, 'We easily had between 1,500 and 2,000 people.'

And that figure doesn't even count all the dogs that were there.

But everyone - moms, dads, kids, little kids riding dads' shoulders, choir singers, police officers and firefighters - all had a fine time, singing Christmas songs and 'ohhing' and 'ahhing' and cheering when the lights were switched on for the giant holiday tree in Safeway's parking lot on A Avenue and Fifth Street.

Then they got to do it all over again a few minutes later at Millennium Plaza Park.

It was an infinitely better way to welcome the Christmas season than battling the much-publicized traffic snarls and screaming shoppers reported at other locations around the Portland area.

'I've been coming to the tree lighting for 15 years and I've never seen so many people participating in the singing,' said O'Leary.

The mood was set by choir director Cole Blume and the members of five school choirs who boomed out the merry songs of the season, like 'Holly Jolly Christmas,' 'Up on rhe Roof,' 'Let it Snow,' 'Winter Wonderland,' 'Frosty the Snowman,' and 'Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer' (both the Gene Autry version and the funny version).

'It had all the comedy we could muster,' said Blume, who added, 'I'm becoming an expert at this. It's my fourth year of leading the singing.'

Credit goes to Blume's kids, too, because they came back early from Thanksgiving break to perform.

Hoffman made it all official by switching on the lights for the tree. He also told the big crowd, 'This is the tallest living Christmas tree in the USA.'

The Christmas spirit kept right on flowing at Millennium Plaza Park, which instantly filled up with a solid block of happy humanity eating cookies, drinking hot drinks and listening to the sounds of Christmas fill the air from the Millennium Band and Company singers of Lakeridge High School.

What could top this? Only one person - Santa Claus. He arrived to strident acclaim, escorted by Lake Oswego fire trucks, and listened to the Christmas gift wishes of hundreds of children.

The LO chamber and the city of Lake Oswego got lots of help in putting on this annual holiday tradition.

Other sponsors included Directors Mortgage - title sponsor - plus the Lake Oswego Review, Key Bank, Prudential NW Properties, Safeway, Marcia Kies/The Hasson Company Realtors, Moonstruck Chocolate, Starbucks and Tree Care Unlimited.

Volunteers came from the Youth Action Council, National Charity League and the Girl Scouts and Daisy Scouts, who had the popular task of passing out cookies to the massive crowd.

O'Leary thinks the success of the Holiday Tree Lighting is a portent of perhaps the best shopping season in years coming to Lake Oswego.

'There were a lot of great numbers posted on Black Friday,' he said.