Warm weather makes the annual Lake Oswego holiday kickoff even more enjoyable
by: VERN UYETAKE, The Tree at Bigelow Plaza is lighted as the crowd counts down to zero.

A tree is a tree.

Unless it is the giant tree at the Lake Oswego Chamber of Commerce Holiday Tree Lighting, and then the tree is very special.

That was the case with the 44th annual edition of the event on Friday night in Bigelow Plaza on the Safeway parking lot.

The crowd was estimated to be in the hundreds by Jerry Wheeler, executive director of the Lake Oswego Chamber of Commerce, but he admitted it could have been even higher.

'It is the largest crowd I've experienced, and this was my fifth Tree Lighting,' said Wheeler, who again served as emcee. 'When everyone went to Millennium Plaza Park it was packed. We planned for 600 people, but there were more than that.'

The crowd slowly filled up the plaza as the Lake Oswego High School Choir, under first-time director Cole Blume, filled the air with Christmas songs. Many of those attending were parents who propped their small children on their shoulders so they could see better. Instead of struggling to keep warm, they enjoyed a balmy November evening.

'It was great weather,' enthused Wheeler. 'Last year we froze. The year before we froze and got soaked.'

Kathy Kern, of the city of Lake Oswego, directed the event for the 11th time and found the evening to be very enchanting.

'The weather cooperated beautifully,' Kern said. 'People could enjoy the choir and tree lighting and didn't have to ward off rain and wind.'

They could also see Santa Claus much earlier this year. Kern said that for the first time Santa led the parade. St. Nick made a suitable entrance on a fire truck from the Lake Oswego Fire Department. Of course, the big fellow still showed up at Millennium Plaza to receive the Christmas lists of hundreds of children.

Another event perennial has been Mayor Judie Hammerstad, who turned on the lights at Bigelow Plaza.

'This is my eighth time of doing it and my last,' said Hammerstad, who is stepping down from office in January. 'It is wonderful this unique community can come together to celebrate the holidays this time of year.'

Hammerstad turned on the Lake Oswego holiday spirit full force when she switched the lights on, and the crowd proceeded to surge down A Avenue venue for the second part of the big event at Millennium Plaza, for another tree lighting and much more. On the way an enthusiastic group of little girls sang a booming rendition of Jingle Bells.

More holiday entertainment was awaiting them at Millennium Plaza, where Company, the musical/dancing group of Lakeridge High School, gave a typically outstanding performance. The Lake Oswego Millennium Band, under director Dale Cleland, gave a concert of Christmas favorites. There were also hot drinks and cookies available.

'It couldn't have been better,' Wheeler said, 'It was a very successful event.'

Event sponsors included the city of Lake Oswego, Lake Oswego Review, Safeway, Starbucks Coffee, Tree Care and Landscape Unlimited, Marcia Kies of Hasson Company Realtors and the Lake Oswego Chamber of Commerce.

Assistance was provided by the Lake Oswego Police Department and the Lake Oswego Fire Department.

Event committee members were Lake Oswego Chamber staffers Sandra Kaufmann, Lori Lauber, Sean Minogue and Wheeler.

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