Thousands turn out for Christmas tree lighting

The 23rd annual event was held Saturday in Abbotsford's downtown core.

Santa and Mrs. Claus were a big hit with the crowd during the 23rd annual Christmas Tree Lighting in downtown Abbotsford.

Choirs sang, children whispered requests into Santa’s ear, and a giant tree lit up the downtown core – Christmas has come to Abbotsford.

An estimated crowd of between 4,000 and 5,000 people attended the 23rd annual tree lighting celebration on Sunday and organizers say it is one of the biggest turn-outs in recent years.

The festivities included performances on the community stage, free cookies and hot chocolate, kids’ crafts, Santa’s arrival, and the ceremonial lighting of the tree, complete with new decorations.

“The tree is lit,” said Tina Stewart, executive director of the Abbotsford Downtown Business Association, which organizes and runs the celebration.

“It went fantastic. Everything went nice and smooth, the tree lit perfectly and everybody seemed happy.”

While attendance at the event is always a “guess-timate,” Stewart said it continues to grow.

“We had about 4,000 people last year and I’d say there were more than last year, it was definitely shoulder to shoulder.”

The increased crowds could be due in part to a change made three years ago. The tree lighting had historically been held on a Friday evening. However, in 2009, the decision was made to host it on a Sunday afternoon.

“It has definitely been a positive change. It just seems to work better for families.”

Stewart said by the time family members finished work at the end of the week, they had difficulty making time for the event on a Friday night.

This year’s version of the big tree has a new look. Along with the lights, several giant snowflakes have been added.

“They’re huge and they’re beautiful and we really love that,” said Stewart.

Other highlights included the kids’ free craft tent which Stewart said was a “big hit” and will return again next year. She also noted that the crowd cheered when Abbotsford Mayor Bruce Banman took to the stage to perform the Grinch song.

“It’s free fun for the family – that’s what we really like about our event.”

Among the activities was a fundraising event called a puzzle walk. For a small donation, participants could collect puzzle pieces from participating merchants for a chance to win a gift basket. The walk raised $400 for Matthew’s House, a respite facility for children with severe disabilities. It is currently under construction as part of the Campus of Care, located next to Abbotsford Regional Hospital.

The Christmas tree is at the corner of Essendene Avenue and Railway Street.

Just Posted

Here’s Abbotsford’s top stories from the last week

An 11-year-old’s sketch of a B&E suspect, The News challenges a publication ban and more from the last week

Abbotsford piano teacher earns national recognition

Jean Ritter was recently named a teacher of distinction by the Royal Conservatory of Music

Communitas prepares for annual Christmas Day dinner

Abbotsford organization accepts donations for prizes and gifts

Two choirs host Christmas concert in Abbotsford

Pacific Mennonite Children’s Choir and Valley Festival Singers perform Dec. 10

Abbotsford program painting picture of homelessness in motion

Co-ordinated intake and referral program sees 387 referrals of homeless and at-risk in community

VIDEO: Highway overpass protest against United Nations ‘compact’ on immigration

Demonstrators say Canada will have less control over who is allowed in the country

Boeser scores 3, Pettersson has 5 points as Canucks hammer Blues

Vancouver picks up impressive 6-1 win in St. Louis

B.C. police stop drunk driver who offered up burger instead of ID

Roadblock checks over the weekend found at least two other impaired drivers

In Canada, the term ‘nationalism’ doesn’t seem to have a bad rap. Here’s why

Data suggest that Canadians don’t see the concept of nationalism the way people do in the United States

Small quake recorded west of Vancouver Island

No injuries or tsunami warning after 5.4 rumble felt some 400 kilometres from Victoria

B.C. suspends Chinese portion of Asian forestry trade mission due to Huawei arrest

Huawei’s chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou was detained at the request of U.S. in Vancouver

Canadians spent $1.7 billion dollars online in December 2017

Online retail sales accounted for 3.4 per cent of total retail sales

2-year investigations nets $900,000 in refunds for payday loan customers

Consumer Protection BC says selling practices were ‘aggressive and deceptive’

China: Canada’s detention of Huawei exec ‘vile in nature’

Huawei is the biggest global supplier of network gear for phone and internet company

Most Read