Community’s tree-lighting event grows
When the lights are turned on Sunday on the Mayor's Christmas Tree outside City Hall, it will be the culmination of a yearly event that is fast approaching its 20th year and has grown substantially since its early days.
More than 250 people are expected for the annual event, which begins at 6 p.m. Sunday at the Lansing Community Center, on the lower level of City Hall, 800 First Terrace. The lighting will be preceded by the Children Light the Way parade, which begins at 5:45 p.m. on the west side of Lansing High School and winds its way to City Hall.
The history of the tree-lighting event is fuzzy; City Administrator Mike Smith said he remembered 1984 as its first year with an event outside the old City Hall in the 100 block of South Main Street. John Bennett, a former Lansing city councilman and member of Lansing PRIDE, a cosponsor of the event, recalls its beginnings in 1985 or 1986 outside one of the city's churches.
Bennett's recollection of how the tree was appropriated in the event's first year is clear - and colorful.
"One of the City Council members had a tree in his front yard that he wanted to get rid of," Bennett explained, "so we used it."
In the event's early years, the theme was basically the same: Gather around a Christmas tree, sing carols and wish the assembled happy holidays.
From those early years, the event has evolved. A tree that was planted at the northeast corner of City Hall in 1990 has grown into a giant blue spruce that serves as the Mayor's Christmas Tree. Cub Scouts conduct a flag ceremony; the LHS Sound Spectrum and La Petite Ensemble of Recorders perform; and Girl Scouts serve refreshments afterward.
It now also includes donations to the Mayor's Christmas Fund, which benefits less fortunate in the community through cash and grocery donations.
There's also an Angel Tree in the City Hall lobby, which has tags with a child's wish listed. Those interested in participating may pick up a tag, purchase the gift and return the gift to City Hall by Dec. 13 for distribution to the children.
Smith said participation in the charity endeavors was enormous.
"People inside and outside this community, they've just been very generous," he said.