From reporter Kris Sherman:
There were no doorbusters. No get-this-for-a-pittance, get-that-for-a-song ads. No ringing cash registers. No smoking credit cards.
The lighting of Tacoma’s town Christmas tree was free to all comers Saturday night.
And in a rough economy, that price clearly appealed to the estimated 800 to 1,000 people who counted down from 10 with Santa Claus before the five-story evergreen erupted in a glow of red, white, blue and green lights.
It was a simple ceremony, perhaps just what many needed in complex times.
The crowd gathered as darkness descended, many trundling into the lobby of the Pantages Theater at South Ninth and Broadway for hot chocolate or apple cider.
An army brass quintet blew seasonal songs into the relatively balmy evening.
A number of sponsors brought about the event. They included downtown businesses, the Broadway Center, Life Center, Fort Lewis, which supplied the tree, and Tacoma power, police and fire crews, which played roles in hauling it to town and getting it decorated.
The Norman Rockwell-esque community tableau looked like this:
There was love…
Linda and Pat Muir of Milton, married almost 26 years, smooched in front of the darkened tree. They were on a date, they said. Tree lighting first. Then the musical "Scrooge" inside the theater.
No need for high-ticket items this year, the couple said. They’ll keep the buying low key and the loving of family high on their holiday list.
There was impatience-tempered joy…
"Light the tree. Light the tree. Light the tree." A chorus of girls, led by cousins Abby Pierson, 9, and Ariana Skrabak, 6, chanted their wish as they waited for the program to begin. "We’re a little bit cold," Abby said. "And we’re a little bit excited," Ariana added.
There was giving…
Like that shy smile 5-year-old Ashley Tice of Tacoma offered up to Santa Claus and the even wider grin that simple act pasted on the face of dad Bill Krieger.
And there was receiving…
James and Denise Porter and daughters Devon, 4, and Hayden, 2, gratefully sipped hot chocolate, blowing on the steaming liquid to keep it from burning young tongues. They let the sounds of the brass quintet’s version of "The Christmas Song" wash over them as they sat on the grass outside the Pantages.
It’s good when the city provides activities that keep people busy, active and happy together, James Porter said.
Phyllis Harrison, one of the event organizers and owner of the Art Stop, wasn’t selling anything but goodwill Saturday night.
"We really believe in giving back to the community," she said. The seasonal symbol standing tall in front of the Pantages, site of a holiday tree each of the last 98 years, "keeps this part of downtown vital and thriving," she added.
And if it brings people back to shop, that’s all to the good, merchants believe.
But the memories made Saturday night were as free as the spirits of those chanting girls.
"I think this will be a better memory than the toys," said Ed Valentine, who with wife, Maude, brought granddaughters Abby and Ariana to the tree lighting.
Yes, Maude, agreed. There won’t be any batteries needed and nothing to break. Just the sweetness of a sparkling night with Grandma and Grandpa.