Tree lighting draws a crowd

— More than 75 people turned out Friday night to drink hot cocoa, sing Christmas carols and mark the beginning of the Christmas season during the town’s second Christmas Tree Lighting celebration.

Event-goers warmed their fingers and toes by a roaring bonfire adjacent to the Main Street fire station before heading into the Community Hall for hot cocoa, stories and Christmas carols.

Area resident, singer and storyteller Dayton Edmonds served as the emcee for festivities, which reached its apex with the selection of a child to throw a mammoth switch to light the town Christmas tree in front of the hall.

Children lined up and selected ornaments bearing numbers for a chance to light the tree. Dre’a Jameson, 9, of Omak, won the honor.

“It’s kinda good,” she said after throwing the switch, bringing the Christmas tree’s lights to life outside of the hall. “It was fun.”

Jameson said she was just “hanging out with family” at the event, not knowing that she would have the honor of being only the second child to light the town’s tree.

With hot cocoa and cookies in hand, children and adults filed back into the hall where Edmonds entertained them with stories and led them in caroling.

“We just lit the Christmas tree,” he said. “Let’s sing about it.”

Organizer Cindy Case said she was ecstatic about this year’s turnout.

“I think it’s great,” she said. “It’s a little more than last year and that was a great turnout, too.”

The Christmas Tree Lighting is the brainchild of resident Joan Leckvold, city employee and event volunteer Zachary Claussen said.

“She kind of started this thing,” he said.

Leckvold missed the event this year as she was returning home from out-of-town travel.

Contacted Monday, she graciously downplayed her involvement.

“I’m the one who takes care of it now,” she said. “My husband and I get the tree and keep the ball rolling. It’s a fun evening.”

She credited Edmonds, Sit’n Bull Saloon and Conconully General Store for making the event a success. The restaurant and store donated cookies and cocoa. She also credited volunteers George Washo and Gordon Moser for gathering wood for the bonfire.

Claussen called the event “awesome,” noting it’s the first of two Christmas events.

The next, Santa Days, is set for Dec. 14. Santa Days will include a craft bazaar, bonfire, a lighted snowmobile and all-terrain vehicle parades, and, of course, Santa Claus.

Parade participants should be in town by 5 p.m. that day in preparation for events that start at 6 p.m. The parade starts at the top of Mineral Mountain and ends downtown.

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