Singers, Santa and two big trees conspire to create warm seasonal spirit
by: Vern Uyetake, Stephanie Crim and Richie Bowen of Lakeridge High School’s  “Company” singers entertain the crowd at Millennium Plaza Park with classic and holiday tunes.

It didn't start too well. Just a few folks with umbrellas braving the cold, drippy weather in Safeway's parking lot. But it didn't take long before hundreds of people began surging into Lake Oswego's 42nd annual Holiday Tree Lighting celebration. In addition, the weather actually became quite pleasant.

Maybe it wasn't a holiday miracle, but it was a very nice turn of events.

'There was a lot going on that day,' said Kathy Kern, special events director for the city of Lake Oswego. 'It was Civil War day, and the Lake Oswego playoff football game.

'It's wonderful how people incorporate this event into their day no matter what else is going on.'

So many people turned out, in fact, that the crowd was estimated at 500 folks, which would be by far the most to ever attend the event.

Great credit for the success to the Holiday Tree Lighting early on goes to Lake Oswego High School's chorale group, which was joined by former members who were home on vacation from college.

'That's a really nice tradition,' Kern said.

Seniors Marissa Ryder and Marisa Illo led both the choir and crowd in singing the songs of Christmas, such as 'Frosty the Snowman,' 'Jingle Bells,' 'Santa Claus is Coming to Town,' 'Up On The Roof Top,' and many, many more.

On 'Jingle Bell Rock,' Ryder urged everyone to 'feel free to dance along with us.'

The more they sang, the better the weather got and the more people streamed in.

The choir warmed up the crowd for presentations by Jerry Wheeler, executive director of the Lake Oswego Chamber of Commerce and the ebullient emcee for the occasion, and Lake Oswego Mayor Judie Hammerstad.

With the help of three children - Julia, Jack and Jordan Wolf - Hammerstad pulled the switch that lit up the gigantic Christmas tree, which was accompanied by a mass upturning of faces.

But there was much more fun in store. The big crowd trekked over to Millennium Plaza Park, where the choir of Lakeridge High School put on the best variety show since 'The Ed Sullivan Show' was canceled. They sang and, with some excellent choreography danced to rhythm blues classics 'Hallelujah, I Love Her So' and 'Flip, Flop, Fly,' then went into holiday numbers like 'Little St. Nick' and 'Jingle Bell Rock.'

Vastly assisting the holiday atmosphere was the Lake Oswego Millennium Concert Band directed by Dale Cleland, which provided plenty of holiday oompah, plus Starbucks passing out hot drinks, and children with huge trays of cookies.

Once again a switch was turned on for the lighting of a huge Christmas tree in Millennium Plaza Park. That set the stage for the arrival of Santa Claus, whose entrance was preceded by flashing lights from the Lake Oswego Fire Department.

That's when the serious business began: A remarkably long line of children telling Santa what they wanted for Christmas.

'It's wonderful that this event can get people of all ages together,' said Kern, who organized the celebration for the eighth straight year.

One of Kern's changes this year was hiring a sound person, and she said, 'It made a huge improvement.'

Sponsors of the Holiday Tree Lighting celebration were the Lake Oswego Chamber of Commerce, The Lake Oswego Review, Safeway, Starbucks, Marcia Kies of Hasson Company Realtors, and First American Title.

Appreciation was expressed to the Lake Oswego Police Department and the Lake Oswego Fire Department for their assistance.

The event was such a success that as people were leaving they said to each other, 'Happy Holiday Tree Lighting!'

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