Lights and smiles lit up Hermiston’s new festival street Thursday night.
The tree-lighting ceremony brought crowds downtown for entertainment, food and a chance to get a picture with Santa Claus.
City manager Byron Smith said the city was excited about the chance to hold the event for another year as it “grows and gets more popular all the time.” While the city has placed a giant tree on Second Street every year since 2015, this is the first year since the block was transformed into a more pedestrian-friendly “festival street” with brickwork, trees, benches and other features. This year’s tree is the tallest so far, at 40 feet, and is decorated with approximately 2,000 lights.
Greater Hermiston Area Chamber of Commerce director Debbie Pedro asked the crowd if they noticed the extra lights, flowers and other improvements to downtown Hermiston that the city and Hermiston Downtown District have been adding throughout 2018.
“I hope you guys are really proud of what you’re seeing down here,” she said, prompting applause.
In addition to Christmas lights, businesses decorated their storefronts for a holiday decorating competition. Pedro announced Hermiston Drug & Gift as the winner of the contest.
After the tree-lighting, families listened to Hermiston High School’s Majazzty choir or stood in line for pictures with Santa.
Mallory Rehmke, 10, said she was going to ask for a unicorn. The adults in her group told her that probably wasn’t going to happen, but she had faith.
Standing with her were Isabelle Newton, 5, who had her heart set on a “big doll house” in pink, and Aurora Rojas, 6, who wanted a skateboard.
“I’m gonna learn with my dad,” she said.
Some children in line were still thinking about what they want most to appear under the tree on Christmas morning — JT Hudson, 7, finally decided on a Nintendo, while Reagan Hudson, 4, wants a Barbie Dream House. But others came prepared. Audrey Wright, 5, wrote her list down in a letter to Santa to make sure she didn’t forget anything.
“I want a special dolly, and candy cane, and a sled ....” she listed.
Once the big moment arrived, some children hopped right up on Santa’s lap. Others were more shy. A small girl in a bright pink coat resisted getting too near, but did consent to reaching out for a dainty high five.
The Christmas tree and other lights in the festival street area, located on Northeast Second Street between Main Street and Gladys Avenue, will be part of a light show performed each Monday through Friday at 5 p.m., 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. until Christmas.