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Turlocks Christmas tree a downtown tradition
turlock tree pic2
The Festival of Lights event, held every year on the last Friday of November, is the official lighting of Turlocks community Christmas tree. - photo by 209 file photo

Whether it’s Rockefeller Square in New York City or San Francisco’s Union Square, Christmas trees are a staple of the holiday season found in cities and homes across the world. While Turlock’s community tree may not tower in comparable sky scraper heights, it is a staple of the Central Valley town’s annual holiday traditions since the early 1920s.

The original community Christmas tree dates back to Dec. 18, 1922 when a 40 foot Sugar Pine tree was hauled down from the High Sierras as a gift from the Turlock Irrigation District and placed at Central Park at the intersection of West Main and Golden State.

In 2008, after 86 years, the Sugar Pine was cut down as it posed a risk to the community after several storms brought debris down into the streets. A new tree stands in its place, smaller in size at 25 feet and of the Deodar Cedar variety, courtesy of local community members. 

“I think every community needs to have a symbol of Christmas just like how kids enjoy driving down Christmas Tree Lane each year, it’s something you can always count on –an annual tradition. Just like the lighting of the tree downtown on Main Street each year,” said Ray Garcia, Turlock Municipal Services Supervisor.

The tree remains a major focal point of Turlock’s holiday festivities with the Festival of Lights, a tree lighting ceremony performed by the mayor and a street faire, drawing hundreds each year. The annual Turlock Downtown Christmas Parade consistently draws thousands of people who gather around the tree and along Main Street to witness the processional of local floats. Last year’s parade drew over 31,000 people while this year’s featured a rock and roll theme of 79 floats giving viewers 90 minutes of holiday cheer.