Polk County Itemizer-Observer
By Craig Coleman
MONMOUTH — For many locals in Monmouth, the holiday season truly begins the moment the giant, decorated sequoia standing sentinel on the Western Oregon University campus is illuminated.
That 43-year-old tradition and the celebration that accompanies it will see some key changes starting this week.
The city and the university are hosting their respective activities — which includes parades, choirs and Santa sightings — under the banner of the Monmouth Hometown Holiday Festival.
The event kicks off at 10 a.m. Friday, Dec. 3, and runs through Saturday, Dec. 4.
Terri Gregory of the Monmouth Business Association said her organization approached the university this summer about trying to base a broader celebration around the tree lighting.
First and foremost was moving the event from its typical first Wednesday after Thanksgiving to a Friday.
Stephen Cucchiara, WOU coordinator for student organizations and activities, said there was little resistance to the idea.
“It gets more community members involved and more student participation,” Cucchiara said. “And it’s easier for people to plan, with their kids not having to go to school the next day.”
It also meant coordinating other events, such as the December Smith Fine Arts performance, so that they would all run together, Cucchiara said.
“Eventually, we hope to make it a whole weekend and maybe even down the line a full-week festival,” he said.
For more information, call Terri Gregory at 503-330-6598.
Monmouth Hometown Holiday Festival
FRIDAY, DEC. 3
* 10 a.m. — Local artists will be displaying their work and wares in the storefronts of downtown Monmouth businesses beginning at 10 a.m.
Hot chocolate, cider and coffee will be provided by merchants in exchange for donations to benefit Partnerships in Community Living.
* 6 p.m. — WOU students, local businesses and residents will take part in a holiday parade along Monmouth Avenue.
* 6:30 p.m. — The WOU Chamber Singers will perform on the steps of the Information Technology Center. Winners of a coloring and essay contest will be introduced. The giant sequoia will be lit.
* 7 p.m. — A number of activities are planned at the Werner University Center, including pictures with Santa, holiday arts and crafts, and a concert featuring the Monmouth Elementary School Choir, Saxophone Ensemble and VIP Strings-Monmouth Children’s Violin Group.
* 7 p.m. — A roller rink will be set up in the Werner Center. Cost is $1 for WOU students with ID and $3 for community members.
* 8 p.m. — A Choral Vespers concert, featuring Christmas music from Latin America and England performed by more than 120 WOU student musicians, is scheduled at Rice Auditorium. Tickets are $8 general admission, $5 for students and seniors, and free for WOU students.
SATURDAY, DEC. 4
* 8:30 a.m. — Breakfast at the Monmouth Senior Center, 180 S. Warren St., and photo opportunities with Santa Claus.
* 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. — Holiday-related games, foods and activities from all over the world will be featured as part of the Polar Express Expo in the Werner Center.
* 10 to 4 p.m. — “Sip and Shop” in downtown Monmouth and live music and dance performances at Main Street Park. Monmouth Farm and Craft Market will also open.
* Noon — Judging for fruitcake competition in Main Street Park.
* 7:30 p.m. — Travelin’ McCourys will perform in Rice Auditorium at WOU as part of Smith Fine Arts Series.