The newest addition to earmark and celebrate the holiday season in the City of San Fernando has a few character flaws.
The very top of the 25-foot Evergreen tree is bent sideways, either from trying to hold up ornaments or getting knock around a bit during delivery. The tree itself — planted in a traffic meridian where Brand Boulevard and Celis Street cross — was put there barely two weeks ago and is still taking root. The branches hang hesitantly, as if still gathering strength. The lower half of the tree hasn’t filled in yet, giving it a thin, somewhat undernourished appearance. That probably explains why there doesn’t seem to be much visible decoration.
“It’s a real ‘Charlie Brown’ tree,” noted San Fernando Mayor Sylvia Ballin with a chuckle, referring to the popular “Peanuts” cartoon often showed in December.
But to Ballin, it’s the symbolism of the tree and its location that made it beautiful.
The City of San Fernando’s annual Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony, which took place on Dec. 11, was done with that tall, thin tree as the showcase. The important thing, Ballin said, was the event returning to Brand Boulevard after taking place in the City Hall parking lot, along First Street and Maclay Avenue, the past few years. That, and having a year-round living tree, one that could be here for generations to decorate instead of purchasing a tree every year.
City officials were grateful the threatening rainy weather held off long enough to get the ceremony in. Still, the cold and windy conditions kept the crowd down to an estimated 500 spectators, below the 800 estimated persons that showed up last year.
“Considering how cold it was, I appreciate the turnout,” Ballin said.
The hardy souls who were present were entertained by an a cappella chorale group The Other Reindeer Carolers, making their third appearance at the tree ceremony. The quartet of Jammie Hampton, Andrea Calderwood, William Martinez and Kyle Bowen sang several well-known seasonal favorites, including “Let It Snow,” “Deck The Halls,” and “Silent Night.”
Also warming hearts and hands were the cheerleaders from the San Fernando Braves Pop Warner football team, and the Mariachi Tesoro de San Fernando. And several vendors were available to “help” those needing to do some Christmas shopping.
And, of course, there was Santa Claus. Upon his arrival, St. Nick worked his way through the happy throng of youngsters (and a few oldsters), then came up on the stage to remind people that Dec. 25 is not that far away, and they would have to be good to get their presents. He then sat and took outdoor studio pictures with families.
“This is the first time Santa was on stage,” Ballin said “He usually just goes and sits down for pictures. This year I wanted Santa on stage. He should be the star for the tree lighting. The kids were so excited.”
As for the tree, surrounded by wooden “gift” boxes, it stood as firm as it could, battling the swirling breezes as its blue, green and red lights sparkled in the clear night.
Ballin said she could envision how the tree would change as it matured over the next 10-20 years, and how much better and fuller it will look for other lighting ceremonies. Her only regret was not having the tree planted sooner. She wanted to do it in June, “but there was a lot going on in the city.”
It is there now, standing unsteadily in the night. But standing.