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Smaller tree attracts large crowd to Ripon lighting
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Santa Claus listens to the special wishes of two little Ripon girls following Monday nights Christmas tree lighting at the Veterans Memorial Park in the downtown core of the community. Violet, 6, at left asked for a big brown Teddy bear and her sister Lucie, 8, said she wants a large, wooden historic doll house. - photo by GLENN KAHL

The annual Ripon Christmas tree lighting set the mood for the season Monday night, drawing more than 200 people – mostly families – to Veterans’ Memorial Park.

Ripon Chamber of Commerce President John Mangelos welcomed the throng from the steps of the Veterans’ Museum building, saying that as he looked out at the crowd it looked like a Norman Rockwell moment. He added the only thing missing was Rockwell himself.

Pastor Steve Evoy, of the old downtown Free Methodist Church, offered the invocation for the evening, asking the crowd to bow their heads and give thanks.

Miss Ripon Jessica Carmona flipped on the switch and the 25-foot redwood tree lit up to the cheers of the crowd. Santa appeared and took his seat at the base of the memorial statues for the fighting men of the past. A line of children and their parents gathered to give Santa an earful, hoping he would deliver on Christmas morning. 

Afterwards, the crowd made their way over to a food table where hot cocoa and cookies were on hand. After most of the people had left the park, there was still a line some 15 children long waiting to see Santa Claus. 

This year’s Christmas tree replaced the older 100-foot evergreen on the same site. The chamber decided to look for a second, smaller tree they could better afford and use for the launching of the season. Chamber President John Mangelos and Executive Director Tamra Spade found that the City of Ripon had one in storage, growing in a large wooden nursery box. The mission of planting a new tree in the park became a city and chamber of commerce partnership.

City crews used their boom truck to place the lights on the evergreen that is expected to grow some two to three feet a year with the chamber hoping the citizenry will grow with it as their tree over the coming years. 

The lighting of the larger tree would have cost some $3,000 for tree trimmers to install the thousands of lights. It was done last year as a personal professional donation by a very giving man who climbed to the top of the tree and down again almost a dozen times under his own power.