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Tree lighting, parade thrills crowds

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By Tris DeRoma

The holiday tree lighting ceremony at the County Municipal Building Saturday was one for the record books.

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This year’s key attraction was a 23-foot blue spruce from the Jemez Mountains, picked and decorated by employees from the Los Alamos County Public Works Department. The big buildup, leading up to the lighting, which included a concert from Schola Cantorum Choir and Mountain Elementary, did not disappoint.

“This was the first time I’ve attended an actual lighting ceremony, and I thought the singing was beautiful too”, Los Alamos County Councilor Antonio Maggiore said. “It was very nice.”

County Councilor Rick Reiss led the tree lighting, thanking residents “for coming out tonight to see the lighting of our tree, our community tree.”  He had the crowd do a backward countdown from 10 before flicking on the tree’s lights.

There were plenty of “oohs” and “ahs” and applause at the critical moment, as the tree’s silver and blue ornaments caught the lights just right.

Reiss also thanked Public Works for making the trek out into the Jemez to bring the tree back.

“It’s just as beautiful this year as it was last year, we are lucky to have it,” he said.

The event also featured Los Alamos High School’s Schola Cantorum Choir, which sang classic holiday songs as residents came through the doors to view the tree. Joining them was the Mountain Elementary School Choir, which welcomed their guests with a rendition of “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.”

The lighting was at 5 p.m. Judging by the looks on people’s faces when they came in, county employees said it was well worth the effort they put into decorating the tree. This year, they gave the tree more of a winter feel with silver-and-blue ornaments. Employees spent four hours Friday evening decorating the tree, making sure everything was just right.

The tree was actually set up Friday morning.

“You see it when they walk into the building,” Public Works employee Tim Martinez said. “How excited the little kids are, and people are pretty amazed at the size of it.”

The ultimate compliment though was on the evening of the lighting, people were asking County Manager’s office and tree decorator Jackie Salazar to take their pictures in front of it.

“We got a lot of compliments from our citizens and our councilors,” Salazar said.

Martinez and his crew went up into the Jemez Mountains to get the tree on Thursday, Nov. 30.

They waited until the end of Friday to decorate it