By Julie Pendray
IDYLLWILD, Calif. — With many Idyllwild businesses and homes retaining their colored outdoor lights well beyond the holidays, a lot of this mountain town appears to be straight out of Santa’s Village no matter what time of year.
However, Idyllwild’s annual Christmas Tree Lighting is the icing on the cake.
Flatlanders come in droves to enjoy an old-fashioned family-oriented day of shopping and activities, ending the day singing carols. It’s a kickoff for the season.
Idyllwild’s 55th Annual Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony, “An Olde Fashioned Christmas,” will be Saturday after Thanksgiving, on Nov. 28. More than 5,000 lights will be lit on the 100-foot-tall Sequoia at Jo’An’s Restaurant in the center of town at about 30 minutes after sundown. Sundown will be at 4:43 p.m. Then the crowd will sing Christmas carols.
During the day, musicians and singers will get visitors warmed up for the evening’s event. They’ll include The Caroling Company, Idyllwild Community Choir and guitarist David Jerome. There’ll be a Santa’s Workshop from 1 to 3 p.m. and again from 5:15 to 7:30 p.m. in the Gazebo at the Village Center.
Santa will arrive by fire truck at 4:30 p.m. Then Idyllwild Children’s Choir will sing, followed by Doug Austin and the Old English Theatre Players performing “The Night Before Christmas.”
Afterward, the audience will sing along with Diane Burt and The Caroling Company, Idyllwild Community Choir singers and other choir volunteers.
Sandii Castleberry will be master of ceremonies. This year, the Soroptimists are offering a $250 money hat drawing. Castleberry will announce the winner half way through the ceremony, along with the winner of a Christmas quilt drawing offered by Mountain Quilters.
About 20 non-profit organizations will have information booths set up from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Village Center, at Village Center Drive and Park Lane. Holiday food will be served and there’ll be a cookie decorating booth. An elf and reindeer will provide photo opportunities and there’ll be holiday gift items and bouquets of mistletoe for sale. The unincorporated village’s elected golden retriever, Mayor Max, will greet the crowd.
The Old Fashioned Christmas is sponsored by Soroptimist International of Idyllwild. More than 300 community members and merchants donate time and financial resources to the event.
If you plan to stay for the tree lighting, dress warmly. The temperature is expected to be in the 30s by early evening, with a slight chance of showers and breezy, according to the National Weather Service.
Visitors will be able to take the chill off by gathering around a big fire pot and other warmers on the restaurant grounds.