The full moon is the star atop the tree, photo courtesy of Joe Seta
As part of our Hometown Holiday Celebration in historic downtown Fort Bragg, a very tall Christmas tree is placed on the lawn of the Guest House museum and trimmed out for the holidays. Not sure how it is done in your neck of the woods, but in Fort Bragg, if you want to cut a tree down, first you need to call a logger. Fort Bragg’s tree is usually chosen and cut by our friends at Campbell Global, a regional timber management company that maintains much of the forest lands surrounding town, including the Jackson Demonstration State Forest. Certified foresters go out and locate the perfect specimen, then bring in a crew of fellers to cut the tree and transport it downtown to the Guest House.
After the tree is delivered, City of Fort Bragg public works teams arrive to set and decorate the tree. Of course, to place such a tall tree on the sloping lawn of the Guest House, you need more than a regular tree stand from the hardware store. In fact, you need a hole that is close to the diameter of the tree trunk, and deep enough to anchor the tree in our blustery weather. Who do you call when you want that kind of hole? We call PG&E, who has a truck with a drill designed for setting telephone poles in the ground. The PG&E crew assisted with digging the hole, and then the fun begins.
Drilling the hole, photo courtesy of Crystal Prairie
After removing the drill bit from their boom truck, the crew, assisted by the City crew, attached a cable to the hoist, as well as to the trunk of the tree. The tree is then lifted high in the air, the boom swung around, and then carefully aligned with the hole. With the crew on the ground guiding it, the trunk of the tree is slowly lowered into the hole. Everyone circles around to ensure that the tree is straight and true, and dirt is packed in around the trunk to hold the tree in place. Of course, with no root system, the first puff of wind would blow the tree over, so the next step is to attach guy wires all the way around the tree to prevent it from falling or leaning.
Lifting the tree, photo courtesy of Crystal Prairie
Righting the tree, photo courtesy of Crystal Prairie
Setting the tree, photo courtesy of Crystal Prairie
The cable is then detached from the tree, and it is ready for the City crew to decorate. Still using the boom truck, lights are strung around and over the tree, and wired into a locked switch box. The last step in the process is to hang the over sized ornaments on the tree limbs. This part of the decorating is usually accomplished several days, even up to a week before the official tree lighting ceremony.
The tree is up, photo courtesy of Crystal Prairie
The tree is anchored, photo courtesy of Crystal Prairie
On that all important Saturday night, the candy cane lights are strung along the sidewalks to the Guest House museum, and the very special chair is set up inside in anticipation of Santa’s arrival. As the sun sets, Christmas carolers serenade the gathering crowd, as children line up for their turn with Santa.
Since this is a big event in Fort Bragg, our friends at the Coast (KOZT FM radio) are running the sound system and broadcasting live from the tree. At just the right moment, the Mayor arrives to light the tree. After thanking all of the people who made the event possible, he flips the switch while the crowds of children cheer. Caroling continues in the light of the tree, Santa wraps up his visit, and it is time for the Holiday Lights Parade to begin.
The tree is lit, photo courtesy of Joe Seta
As you can see, it truly takes a village to decorate for and to celebrate Christmas in Fort Bragg. Thanks to everyone who makes this wonderful event possible!
Decorating downtown, and especially the tree; Tom Mitchell and the City of Fort Bragg Public Works crew, Campbell Global
Sound/media and tireless community involvement; Tom Yates, Vicky Watts, and the entire team at KOZT FM The Coast
Santa Claus, invited and sponsored by the Fort Bragg Historical Society
Parade organization and promotion; Fort Bragg Fire Department and the North Coast Rodders
Parade staging; Steve Wells
Parade trophies; Danny Figueiredo
Parade Judges; Ben Nicholson and Scott Vorhees
Traffic control; Fort Bragg Police Department, Fort Bragg Fire Department and service club volunteers
Event promotion and coordination; The Fort Bragg Promotion Committee and the Mendocino Coast Chamber of Commerce