By Polly Keary, Editor
The tree on the corner of Lewis and Main in the parking lot of Golden Nail is 20 feet tall, the largest tree in recent town history.
It is fitting, then, that it should be the centerpiece of what will be the city’s largest-ever tree-lighting event.
Light Up Monroe will take place Saturday, Nov. 30, but this year the festivities will begin well before dark.
In fact, the day of celebration begins at 1 p.m. with free hay rides through town. As many as 20
people at a time can hop aboard a wagon drawn by an antique tractor provided by the Western Heritage Center, Monroe’s museum of historic industry. Rides are ongoing until 4 p.m.
Also beginning at 1 p.m., baby alpaca, some of natures softest animals, resembling llama but smaller, will be decked out in holiday finery for kids (and grownups, too) to visit and pet. Crafted items made of alpaca wool will be on hand at the Casa De Arboles Fiber Farm shop.
The alpacas and farm shop will be at the Monroe Chamber of Commerce headquarters, located in the Historic Masonic Lodge at 125 S. Lewis St., just across the street and half a black south from the site of the Christmas tree at Lewis and Main.
The lodge contains a huge river rock fireplace, and Santa will be hand all day from 1-7 p.m. to meet kids. The scene will be professionally lit by photo studio Mar Team Photography, and for $10 you can either take your own picture of your kids or whole family with Santa, or the studio will take it for you and you can download it from the studio’s website later.
Throughout the day, Turtletraxx Entertainment will play holiday music downtown, Rock Brothers Kettle Corn will make hot kettle corn, and Hot Diggity Dog will serve German hot dogs.
While at the lodge to see the alpaca or visit Santa, step into a large luxury RV provided by title sponsor Open Road RV to warm up and get some cocoa and a cookie.
“We are going to bring a toy hauler and we are going to set up a unit and decorate it with lights,” said Russ O’Connor, owner of Open Road RV. ‘We’ll have some things to give out, and the whole staff will be here for the lighting of the tree.”
Sponsors are new to the festival this year; in the past there have not been sponsors. This year sponsors include EvergreenHealth, Providence Medical Group Monroe, Open Road RV and more.
Beginning at 3 p.m. women’s barbershop choir Voices Northwest, the Monroe High School Jazz Choir and the Monroe High School Band will play holiday music, until 4:45.
At 5 p.m., the countdown to the tree lighting begins, and Monroe mayor-elect Geoffrey Thomas, with 10-year-old assistant Abbey Aney, whose annual toy drive collects thousands of toys for the children of families in need, will do the honors.
The tree, which the Granite Falls Museum donated to the city because it turned out to be too big for the space they had, will stay lit through the holiday season.
For the final two hours, there will be more music, with the Yuletide Brass band and Turtletraxx Sound and Light.
The all-day event is a bit of a departure from last year, when the Chamber organized a wine walk on the evening of the tree lighting.
“This Light Up Monroe is geared more toward families,” said Annique Bennett, director of the Monroe Chamber of Commerce. “What we hope to do is bring people into the downtown for fun holiday activities and hopefully they will go out and shop in our stores.”