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Downtown Ripon tree lighting marks start of Christmas season
Ripon Tree Lighting DSC 8243 copy
It was an exciting night for Miss Ripon Amanda Neeley when she got to light the traditional Christmas tree at the highlight of the official lighting of the 15 foot tree Monday night. It was a night of perceived magic for the children seeing Santa for the first time with Miss Ripon never losing her smile. - photo by GLENN KAHL/The Bulletin

The promise of seeing near countless lights turned on to welcome Santa and the season as well as  hearing traditional Yule music and song from high school students from both Ripon Christian and Ripon High schools drew some 200 citizens to the Veterans’ Memorial Park at Locust and First streets in downtown Ripon Monday night.
Miss Ripon Amanda Neeley was introduced by chamber of commerce board chairman Larry Stewart and chamber president Tamra Spade, who spoke on a microphone from the porch of the Veterans’ Memorial Museum. Stewart took the moment to thank Save Mart manager Mike Moreno for providing the hot chocolate and Helen Caetano for baking the homemade cookies. 
Throwing of the switch that activated the trees lights was assigned to Neeley , who stepped up to the porch, bringing applause from the crowd at the 15 foot Christmas tree came to life,  heralding the beginning of the Christmas season in Ripon.
Bob DeRuiter of Ripon Christian directed his choral students in traditional Christmas songs following 30 minutes of music by the Ripon High Concert Band led by music instructor Byron Yerzy as those in the crowd were treated to cookies and hot chocolate.
Santa Claus was on hand to give the children possibly their first chance to visit with the jolly old elf who listened to boys and girls from one year to teens approaching 16.  His was a popular stop staying for some two hours, giving them all a chance to whisper – and even cry – into his ears.
Board member Scott Knight and David Murphy, credited by Spade as being the “volunteer of volunteers,” served the cookies and hot chocolate along with past chamber president John Mangelos.
It was Murphy – an arborist by trade – who climbed to the top of the 100-foot-high evergreen on the Veterans Memorial site to string lights three years ago for the tree lighting.  He ascended the tree and climbed back down by rope more than 10 times for the chamber.