Lighting the way for the holidays

The Fallbrook High School band performs as the official Holiday Tree Lighting takes place. Sally Montiano photo
The Fallbrook High School band performs as the official Holiday Tree Lighting takes place. Sally Montiano photo

Debbie Ramsey
Managing Editor

The illumination ceremony of Fallbrook’s official Holiday Tree and related celebratory activities last year at the Fallbrook Community Center drew approximately 1,500 local residents together to share in the joy of the season. This year, even more are expected to turn out for the free event.

“Many people said it was like a ‘Mayberry moment,'” said Ann Wade, president of the Friends of the Fallbrook Community Center which sponsors the event along with the County of San Diego, Dept. of Parks & Recreation and County (District 5) Supervisor Bill Horn. “People loved the live entertainment, the children playing, and laughing with neighbors.”

Wade explained that the focus of the event is “to promote the spirit of goodwill in the community” and not only highlight the beauty of the season, but provide an opportunity for citizens to learn more about the non-profit organizations that enrich life so significantly in the Fallbrook area.

The free holiday celebration begins at 4:30 p.m. and continues until 7:30. The tree lighting ceremony begins at 5 p.m., and continues with a countdown until sunset, estimated to be 5:15.

Members of the Fallbrook nonprofit Rally for Children support the Holiday Tree Lighting event last year. Christine Rinaldi photo
Members of the Fallbrook nonprofit Rally for Children support the Holiday Tree Lighting event last year. Christine Rinaldi photo

The pine tree, originally planted 34 years ago, is now over 50-feet tall and has its own special story.

“The tree was dedicated by the Gaggero Family in 1981 as a small pine to celebrate Stephen Gaggero’s life and giving spirit, and his dream to bring his community together during the holidays,” explained Wade. “The tree was lit for a few years and went dark until the lighting was revived last year for the first time in over 30 years. The Friends were even able to get in contact with the Gaggero Family, who attended the event as special guests and will do so again this year.”

The tree is indeed a show-stopper as a professional company from San Diego, which also installs the holiday lights for Sea World, outfits it.

Lending plenty of musical entertainment to the evening will be the Fallbrook High School Marching Band, Madrigals Advanced Choir, and elementary school groups singing holiday songs designed for attendees to join in.

A multitude of nonprofit organizations and school groups have been reserving booths at the event. Some will offer food items and beverages, others will feature games, crafts, giveaways, and other activities for suggested donations.

“This gives people awareness and appreciation for what these groups do,” said Wade.

A new addition this year to the food list will be a variety of tamales.

The Friends of the Fallbrook Community Center, led by Ann Wade, upper right, sponsor the Holiday Tree Lighting event, along with the County of San Diego, Parks & Recreation Dept., and County (5th District) Supervisor Bill Horn. Ahrend Studios photo
The Friends of the Fallbrook Community Center, led by Ann Wade, upper right, sponsor the Holiday Tree Lighting event, along with the County of San Diego, Parks & Recreation Dept., and County (5th District) Supervisor Bill Horn. Ahrend Studios photo

“Besides normal snack bar favorites like pizza and pretzels, and dessert items, we asked a group to embrace the Latino holiday tradition for that portion of our population and offer favorites like tamales and horchata,” Wade said.

According to Wade, community members also have the opportunity to do some unique holiday shopping at certain booths and allow organizations to raise needed funds at a collective holiday event.

“People can take care of some of their holiday list and decorating items, and know that the dollars they spend (donate) help worthy causes right here in town,” she said. A small sample of known items include wreaths, mistletoe, cookbooks, and handmade scarves.

Given the multiple holiday events occurring in Fallbrook during the month of December, coordination and collaboration is key among groups. In the first weekend, there are three events – tree lighting on Friday evening, Christmas Parade on Saturday evening , and Historical Society Christmas Open House on Sunday. The parade and the Historical Society event both feature visits from Santa Claus.

“We hope locals and tourists are drawn in by our holiday kickoff weekend; we have been partnering with the Fallbrook Chamber of Commerce to help get the word out,” said Wade. “The chamber has given us lots of great advice based on their experience. The chamber team is amazing. We have also been trying to do what the revitalization council has been asking – coordinate with community organizations, businesses, and other nonprofits to be successful and draw tourism.”

Using a team approach, members of the board of directors of the Fallbrook Community Center, under Wade’s leadership, are all involved in the countless volunteer hours of planning and implementation of this year’s event. Wade credits additional help that is extremely valuable to its success.

“It takes a whole village to do this kind of grand scale event and generous groups like Village Rotary, Fallbrook Rotary, Angel Society, Current Wisdom, and others who share a common vision for the Fallbrook/Bonsall area are helping sponsor this year’s tree lighting, along with local businesses and even kind individuals who give what they can,” said Wade.

And the beauty doesn’t end that weekend. “The tree will be lit nightly (dusk to 10 p.m. approx.) from Dec. 4 through Jan. 1 for families to come and visit it,” explained Wade. “Last year, many families visited the tree each night, at their children’s request!”

The Fallbrook Community Center is located at 341 Heald Lane (off Fallbrook Street). Phone (760) 728-1671 for any additional information or to become a sponsor of the event.

Fallbrook High School teacher, Connie Fellios, left, oversees volunteers from the school's AVID program who are serving hot chocolate at the Holiday Tree Lighting event last year. Real Community photo
Fallbrook High School teacher, Connie Fellios, left, oversees volunteers from the school’s AVID program who are serving hot chocolate at the Holiday Tree Lighting event last year. Real Community photo

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