Grand fir at this year's Woodstock Tree Lighting 'tallest yet'
Luckily for the crowd that assembled for the seventh annual Woodstock Tree-lighting on December 2, the day's rain had tapered to a sprinkle by the time festivities began at five o'clock.
The 27-foot Grand Fir was secured just inside the white picket fence in front of the Homestead Schoolhouse, on the northwest corner of Woodstock Boulevard and S.E. 42nd Avenue. It had been wrapped with long strands of lights, and was just waiting to be plugged in.Kiley and Keli Cronen, owners of Homestead Schoolhouse where Keli is director, are the driving force behind the annual tree-lighting, but Kiley concedes it would never happen without the generosity and partnership of many close friends and family members. Among them, Kiley's buddy Colby Highland, who lives nearby and is the owner of Scaffold Erectors, and who donated the scaffolding from which the tall tree was decorated.
Kiley's brother Kelbe, owner of Cronen Building Company, was also part of the team. Jory Moran, who lives next to Laughing Planet Restaurant and has a son at Homestead, helped cut the tree, hauled it to the site with his work truck, and was there to help erect it, too. It was sourced from the property of another old friend.
There was a decided nip to the damp air as the ceremony drew near. A small but roaring fire – which has become a standard feature at Woodstock Tree Lightings – gave those present a place to warm their hands and toast marshmallows for "s'mores" as they waited; a total of 200 packs of marshmallows, chocolate, and graham crackers were given away, along with skewers, courtesy of Woodstock Law Offices.
Free small bites and a variety of warm drinks were handed out by other Woodstock businesses: Otto's Sausage Kitchen, Toast and Bird+Bear Restaurants, Bridge City Pizza, Papaccino's Coffee, El Gallo Taqueria, New Seasons Market, and Laughing Planet. Otto's reported afterwards that a total of 250 hotdogs were given away.
In addition, Homestead Schoolhouse, Woodstock Farmers Market, John L. Scott Real Estate, and the Woodstock Neighborhood Association offered hands-on craft activities for the kids. Another big attraction for youngsters was the big red fire engine from Portland Fire & Rescue Station 25.
The Woodstock Neighborhood Association brought a big sheet of paper and some pens, and asked the assemblage, "If Santa could deliver anything you wanted to the Woodstock Neighborhood, what would it be?" The question elicited some interesting answers, which are now posted in the kiosk at the nearby Woodstock Community Center.
John L. Scott footed the bill for the lights, and when the tree-lighting moment finally arrived, Kiley and Keli's eldest son, Sims, did the honors of plugging them in. (A fourth-grader at Lewis Elementary, Sims has two younger brothers, twins.)
For the hour leading up to that moment, Bjorn Rowberg of Mt. Tabor Music, who teaches music classes at Homestead, played piano accompaniment for Ryan Patrick, another long-time Cronen friend and parent of a Homestead Schoolhouse alum, who entertained the crowd as emcee and a singer of Christmas carols. The front porch of the schoolhouse served as the stage.
The crowd oohed and aahed as the tall fir tree lit up at 6 o'clock, after an official countdown led by Keli Cronen. The tall, blue-tinged spire of light reflected beautifully in the big rain puddle on the unimproved street corner. The moment passed, but this year the crowd was a little slower to disperse, Kiley commented. And this reporter also noticed that people were lingering, either to visit with each other, or to finish off whatever food and drinks remained.
Kiley confirmed that the tree will again stay up and lit through New Year's Day. He acknowledged that preparing and presenting the tree-lighting for Woodstock each year takes a lot of energy, but it's become a family tradition – a group effort among friends – and, he reflected, the community makes it all worthwhile.