Hundreds gathered on Main St. for the annual event, to which Santa arrives in a TVF&R firetruck.

TIMES PHOTO: JONANTHAN HOUSE - Santa Claus waves to the crowd as he lights the Tigard Holiday Tree.Mrs. Claus must have enjoyed a dinner for one at the North Pole Friday evening, because Santa was busy riding a firetruck in downtown Tigard.

With a ride supplied by Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue, Mr. Claus was the guest of honor at the Downtown Tigard Holiday Tree Lighting. He took a ride in the truck's extendable ladder to light the tree, an evergreen in the Rite Aid parking lot across from Liberty Park.

Hundreds of spectators, clustered into small groups and crowding the sidewalks around the tree, counted down to one as St. Nick lit the tree, illuminating the night.

For Kyler Bonwell, 13, watching the tree lighting with his family was a welcome return of a favorite tradition. Bonwell grew up attending the event, but his family hadn't been in a few years.

"The tree lighting is really great and beautiful, and we haven't done it in way too long," he said. "It's just the whole spectacle, and the community of Tigard getting together to watch this."

Nearby, another family was making a new tradition. Cheryl and Jim Huth recently moved to Tigard, and they knew they had to bring their young grandson, Gabriel, to the lighting when they saw it promoted last month.

"Oh, it's just a great tradition to get started with our family," Cheryl said. "We've lived in other places and seen the tree, and we thought, we have to see the lighting this year."

After the jolly fat man set the tree aglow, the crowd headed over to an afterparty at the Ballroom Dance Company. Kids got to take photos with Santa, and Company's shelter offered a welcome respite from the drizzling rain outside.

TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Santa Claus is greeted by children as he arrives at the Downtown Tigard Holiday Tree Lighting.

This was the first year that Ballroom Dance Company hosted an afterparty, said Debi Mollahan, CEO of the Tigard Chamber of Commerce.

"We think that's going to be a very cool venue, so we're excited about that partnership," she said.

Ballroom Dance Company was also an event sponsor, as were Symposium Coffee, Landmark Ford Lincoln, T. Scandia Motors, the city of Tigard, and the Tigard Downtown Alliance. As Mollahan put it, "It takes a village to make something like this happen."

"It's a community gathering, and it's a great way to ring in the season," she added. "I think it signifies the community of Tigard, and it's something that's been going on for I don't know how many years."

Blair Stenvick
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