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Christmas tree lights children's smiles
Dallan and Patience Christenson’s children — 6 year old twins and a 3-year old boy — clapped heartily and exclaimed with sounds of joy as Porterville’s Christmas tree — a 75-foot tall Cedar at Porterville City Hall — was lit in a glory of purples, blues, reds and yellows. Another set of twins, five-month-old girls, were oblivious to the ceremony as they laid in mom’s and grandma’s arms during the city’s 33rd annual Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony Friday night at Centennial Park in downtown Porterville.
“It’s so pretty” and “There must be a million lights on there” children could be heard saying as the tree was lit following the singing of “Silent Night.”
Prior to the program, the town’s trolley served as a drop-off place for canned foods and toys.
“It feels good to be able to bring a toy,” said Vanessa Mendez. “I want [other] kids to be happy with toys.”
Mendez and three other children, Emilee Gurrola, Alina Gurrola and Junior Gurrola walked to the trolley to deposit a toy each.
“It feels good to help out the kids who really need it,” Gurrola said.
As people gathered on the lawn, the Porterville Community Strings, under the direction of Pam Aucutt, played yuletide tunes under a gazebo sparkling with white lights and glistening hanging snowflakes.
In the audience was Patricia Norwood, who has lived in Porterville for 45 years but attending the tree lighting service for the first time.
“It’s beautiful music,” she said and then admitted to being Aucutt’s first music teacher — and her mother.
But she wasn’t the only enjoying the music, a few hundred people, some of them shivering or blowing warm breath on cold hands, appeared mesmerized by some of the music.
Also listening to the music were Alexandria Coleman, 4, and her two uncles, Rudy Hernandez and Josiah Keaton, ages 8 and 9.
The three children said they couldn’t wait for the lighting of the tree — and the hot chocolate and cookies being offered afterwards, donated by Hoagies Heroes.
The hour-long program included community singing, special music by Jeanette Keel and Dallan Christenson, and a sign-language interpretation by Signs of Hope.
An invocation by the Rev. Joe Gentzler, a message by Rev. Tom Olson, additional signing by Sherrie Eby and an art-in-progress exhibit by Diego Monterrubio completed the service.
Corinne Gonzalez, her husband, son and his wife, and three children were among those in the audience.
“My son and his wife and the children are visiting from Salinas Valley,” she said. “This is our first time to be here. We heard about the lighting and came to see what everyone was talking about.”
For many in attendance, the tree lighting, and not Black Friday, signaled the start of the Christmas season.
“This is very nice,” Patience Christenson said. “It’s nice that they focused on the birth of Jesus and not just the social part of Christmas.”
Contact Esther Avila at 784-5000, Ext. 1045. Follow her on Twitter @Avila_recorder.