Tuesday, December 6, 2011 marked a much anticipated historical event. For the first time ever the City of Menifee lit their beautifully decorated, inaugural Christmas tree right in front of city hall.
Just after 5:00 pm on Tuesday evening a large crowd of proud Menifee residents watched in expectation, counting down the last 5-4-3-2-1, as Mayor Wallace Edgerton flipped the honorary switch.
Edgerton remarked that the tree is for everyone, bringing a real sense of togetherness to the community and in particular to this special event. After the ceremony, residents and city members mingled and sipped hot refreshments, reveling in the warmth of not only the hot chocolate, but also the season.
The Arts Council provided a musical ensemble of young choir members, led by Laura Leedahl, who together sang Christmas carols in front of city hall. The Council also featured a beautiful Christmas watercolor on display in the lobby, done by local fine artist Kathy Pickett.
Aside from the illuminated masterpiece, according to many wee believers, the highlight of the evening was most certainly the arrival of Santa riding, not a sleigh, but a gleaming fire engine.
Closely following the ceremonial tree lighting, a festive Riverside County fire truck made quite and entrance with lights flashing and sirens blaring. To the delight of every child in attendance out stepped jolly Mr. and Mrs. Claus, ready to field each child’s Christmas wish.
A long line immediately formed as the Claus couple, portrayed by John and Linda Denver, took their places seated beneath the glowing tree. For the next while, one after another of eager children took their turn telling Santa what they want most for Christmas.
After his turn talking to Santa, an excited little boy holding a token candy cane made his way through the crowd at the hands of his parents. His mother gratefully shared she had learned of the tree lighting through Facebook and was very glad they had come to this event.
Four-year old Gavin Wilson was all smiles as he revealed that he had asked Santa for video games. When asked what his favorite part of the night was, Gavin wasted no time in explaining, “My favorite thing was sitting on Santa’s lap. I’ve seen Santa at the mall, but now he’s here in Menifee so that’s pretty cool!”
Which is to say, the City has impressed those both big and small. City manager Bill Rawlings shared, “Every event the City puts on gets a little bigger than the year before, but the bottom line is the experience we’ve created. When that fire truck pulled up I watched a little boy’s eyes get this big; that joy, that excitement, that’s what it’s all about.”
Happy children considered, the night also benefited the “Spark of Love” Toy Drive and the Menifee Valley Community Cupboard. Donation bins overflowed thanks to those in attendance who brought unwrapped gifts for the toy drive, and non-perishable food donations to help stock the Community Cupboard.