The longtime Davis tradition returns with special performances, holiday characters and plenty of community cheer
By YAN YAN HUSTIS HAYES — email@example.com
On Dec. 2, the City of Davis hosted its 40th annual Holiday Tree Lighting in Downtown Davis’ E Street Plaza. Festivities included live performances, Christmas character appearances and free special screenings of the holiday short film “Merry Madagascar.”
The holiday performances kicked off at 6 p.m with showcases from the Davis Children’s Chorale, the Davis High School Jazz Choir and the Davis Madrigals. In addition to the performances at E Street Plaza, Mariachi Del Valle performed at 7 p.m at the Hunt-Boyer mansion on Second Street.
Because of COVID-19 concerns, this Holiday Tree Lighting was the first in-person ceremony since the 2019 celebrations. Management Analyst for the Davis City Manager’s Office Carrie Dyer, who oversaw much of the coordination for the event, said that the planning process that would normally start in mid-August moved up because of the uncertainty related to the coronavirus.
“This year it was quite a bit later than normal for our planning process because we were wanting to evaluate what we could do safely while still providing something really special for the community,” Dyer said. “We made the decision in mid-October to move forward with a modified version of what our typical event is and the planning started then.”
Because of COVID-19 concerns, this year’s tree lighting event was modified from previous years to ensure the safety of event-goers. Event planners had to find ways to adapt this year’s festivities to limit contact and gatherings of large groups of people in small spaces, according to Dyer.
“Typically our event starts with a candle light parade at the Davis Food Co-op,” Dyer said. “This year we eliminated the parade, we eliminated the big stage performance area and instead of having in-person Santa visits which we normally have with Santa and Mrs. Claus in one of the store fronts, we had Santa on the fire engine.”
While people were not able to meet with Santa and Mrs. Claus directly, costumed holiday themed characters visited the crowd. Because of the modifications, event planners were unsure of how many people would attend.
“We weren’t sure how many people would actually show up downtown and we were actually so thrilled with the amount of people that showed up and the positive feedback that we got and the goodwill and cheer that everybody had,” Dyer said. “We were really, really excited about it and happy to be able to do something, even if it was modified.”
Davis Mayor Gloria Partida said that careful consideration was taken to ensure that community vaccination levels and infection rates were at safe levels.
“We carefully considered the level of COVID infections and the vaccination rate,” Partida said. “In particular the availability of vaccinations for children was critical for allowing families to attend.”
After such a long time in isolation, the Holiday Tree Lighting provided Davis community members the opportunity to gather and celebrate the holidays in a safe way. Partida said that in-person gatherings help to foster a sense of community.
“In-person celebrations are important to strengthen the sense of belonging,” said Partida. “After such a long period of time in isolation, in-person gatherings also alleviate the strain on the community’s mental health.”
Partida stressed the importance of caring for each other and getting tested regularly as we continue to celebrate the holiday season.
“I am very proud of the level of unified concern our community has for each other’s wellbeing,” Partida said. “The participation in testing and willingness to get vaccinated have helped us all return to send [a message] of normalcy and saved lives. I urge all to continue to use caution gathering and continue to test regularly.”
The tree lighting event is particularly popular with families, many of whom were excited to return to an in-person celebration. Longtime Davis resident Chris Dietrich who attended the tree lighting ceremony with his family welcomed the return of the Davis tradition.
“We grew up in Davis and went to school here, so we’ve gone to a lot of tree lightings over the years,” Dietrich said. “It’s really cool that it’s back again.”
Davis City Manager Mike Webb, who was also in attendance, stressed the importance of being able to celebrate the holidays with the community.
“[I’m] very happy that we can do something in celebration of the holidays with our community and in doing so in a safe way that honors the community’s hard work that we’ve reached with our COVID-19 recovery,” Webb said. “[We’re] just happy to be getting back to a little sense of normalcy.”
City employee and event volunteer Diane Parro said that the event is a great way to celebrate the holidays with the whole community.
“We come out every year to make some holiday spirit for the whole community — young and old, we’re here to help people celebrate,” Parro said. “It’s one of my favorite things to do all year.”
Written by: Yan Yan Hustis Hayes — firstname.lastname@example.org