A tree is blocking the street next to Hermiston’s city hall, but it’s no accident.

The 30-foot Christmas tree donated by RDO Equipment was “planted” in the middle of Northeast Second Street by the city after workers used a jackhammer to create a three-foot deep hole in the road.

The display is part of a larger vision that includes a nightly light show set to music on the side of the former RoeMarks building. The block of downtown where the tree and light show are located will remain closed to vehicles during the month of December.

When Parks and Recreation director Larry Fetter announced the light show in October, he said he planned to utilize “as many of the festival lights as possible” from the now-disbanded Eastern Oregon Festival of Lights, along with the long-empty RoeMarks storefront, to help draw shoppers downtown.

“I hope people say, ‘We have 25 minutes to kill before the next show, let’s look around,’” he said.

Eventually the city of Hermiston plans to make the block of Second Street between city hall and East Main Street a permanent “festival street” with decorative brickwork, landscaping, benches and gates that could be closed to block off the street for events. For now, however, the street will reopen in January after the tree is removed and the hole covered.

Revitalizing downtown is one of the top priorities Hermiston residents listed in a recent survey asking what “livability” issues the city should prioritize.

One group that has been working to do so is the Hermiston Downtown Association. The city is holding a tree-lighting ceremony on Thursday in conjunction with the association’s First Thursday event.

The lighting ceremony for the Christmas tree in the middle of Second Street will be Thursday at 6 p.m., featuring Santa Claus and live entertainment. The light show will also premiere that night. It will continue each Thursday, Friday and Saturday every 30 minutes from 5-9 p.m. until Dec. 26, with live entertainment on Thursdays.

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Contact Jade McDowell at jmcdowell@eastoregonian.com or 541-564-4536.

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