For the 28th time, the small Pacific Northwest town picked out and delivered the tree that will be illuminated during Sparks’ holiday celebration. On Friday, the tree’s 55,000 LED lights will be illuminated in a ceremony at 6:30 p.m., following a ribbon cutting ceremony at 6 p.m. officially unveiling renovations to the train display at Lillard Park on Victorian Avenue at the corner of Pyramid Way.
The relationship between Sparks and Garibaldi began in 1982. As legend has it, it began when Sparks local Norm Nielsen lamented to a Garibaldi friend that he missed living where Christmas trees grew. The friend, Patricia Bash, said she would cut one down and bring it to Nielsen in Sparks. The gift eventually started a city-wide excursion from Garibaldi to Sparks, where Oregon locals would hop the “Christmas Tree Express” and join Sparks for the holidays. Sparks residents, in turn, would travel to Garibaldi every summer for the town’s July Garibaldi Days parade.
On Monday, Garibaldi logging trucker Terry Freeman delivered the tree with his wife, Teresa, for the sixth year, though they have been making trips to Sparks for more than 20 years. Terry said this year’s tree selection came from a slightly lower elevation — 50 feet above sea level, rather than the usual 200 feet — because the snow level dropped significantly this year. He said it only took a few hours to find the tree, but about six to cut it down. They chose a 63-foot Douglas fir, Terry said, choosing it out of all trees near the small town of about 1,000 because of its full branches. Only about one of every 10,000 trees are truly worthy of becoming a Christmas tree, Terry said.
Teresa said the state of Oregon donated the tree, while Young Electric Sign Co. donated the use of a crane to lift it into place in downtown Sparks. A dozen men worked in freezing temperatures Monday morning to hoist the tree from the trailer of the truck, maneuver it into place near the Saint Mary’s Ampitheater and position it into a hole two feet wide by eight feet deep. Once the tree was straightened and stabilized using sand and triangular wood blocks, crews went to work adorning it with lights.
City maintenance supervisor Bruce French said local school children will be adding their own decorations to the tree on Friday. The annual Hometowne Christmas Parade will start at 1 p.m. Saturday, heading east along Victorian Avenue from Pyramid Way passing in front of the tree.