A Humboldt County holiday tradition returns for its 80th year this weekend.
Ferndale’s annual “Lighting of America’s Tallest Living Christmas Tree” ceremony is set for Sunday at 5:30 p.m. at the end of Main Street in the Victorian Village.
The event is being organized by the Ferndale 4-H Community Pride Group and Ferndale Chamber of Commerce.
“The Christmas tree in Ferndale is really an iconic symbol countywide for Christmas. You can see it from Highway 101,” said Paul Beatie, president of the Ferndale Chamber of Commerce and co-owner of Ferndale Music Company and The Old Steeple.
Ferndale has held a Christmas tree lighting event every year since 1934, except for several years during World War II and in 1973 when there was a national power crisis.
According to the Nov. 30, 1934 edition of the Humboldt Standard newspaper, preparations were finalized for the first Christmas tree lighting in Ferndale during a luncheon meeting of the Ferndale Chamber of Commerce, including procurement of about 500 lights for the newly designated “community Christmas tree” growing on the hillside just south of Main Street.
The first live-tree lighting in Ferndale 84 years ago was inspired by similar events taking place at the time throughout California, according to the Humboldt Standard. Back then, the event included performances by local schoolchildren, with candy and nuts distributed to those in attendance.
Over the years, the tree-lighting program and the tree itself have continued to grow in popularity. Ferndale’s beloved Sitka spruce is the tallest living Christmas tree in America, according to the Ferndale Chamber of Commerce website.
“As of 2005, it was 170 feet tall but the lights do not go all the way to the top. Now, it has about 1,000 lights,” said Ferndale Museum Director Lynn Lourenco.
This Sunday’s program will also feature music by Betty Diehl with the Chameleon Singers and the local Booster Band. Cookies and hot chocolate will be served after the program. There’s no charge to attend.
“People come for the entertainment, to support the community and because it is a thrilling sight to see the lights turn on,” said Maralyn Renner, whose daughter, Abby, 12, is part of the Ferndale 4-H Community Pride Group.
The 4-H group is currently seeking donations of homemade cookies for the tree-lighting event. Cookies can be dropped off Sunday from 1 to 3 p.m. at Scout Hall, 100 Berding St. in Ferndale.
Several other holiday activities are planned for this weekend in Ferndale as well.
The annual Hospitality Night Open House is set for Friday from 5 to 9 p.m. Victorian Village merchants will stay open late, and there will also be lots of goodies, live music and book signings. The fun continues Friday evenings in December with Ferndale’s new “Victorian Holidays” series. Each Friday until Christmas, shops in town will stay open until 9 p.m. and there’ll be live music, themed costumes and various other activities. Each night will have a specific theme: An Old-Fashioned Christmas (Dec. 7), Cowboy/Cowgirl Christmas (Dec. 14) and Hawaiian Christmas (Dec. 21).
Santa Claus arrives on Main Street this Saturday at 10:30 a.m. aboard a red fire truck, bearing gifts and photo opportunities for children.
The Portuguese Hall Association will hold its annual “Linguica and Beans Dinner” Sunday from 4 to 7 p.m.
For more information about these events and other festive Ferndale fun, go to VisitFerndale.com/Holidays.