Sierra Vista’s annual tree lighting ceremony will transform Veterans Memorial Park into a winter wonderland this year with ice skating, snow, and the debut of the saved Old World Santas.
The Annual Tree Lighting: A Light to Remember will take place on Friday, Dec. 6, from 4 to 9 p.m. in Veterans Memorial Park. This year the event has been expanded to feature longer hours and more holiday activities, while also boasting traditional favorites like live holiday music courtesy of the Sierra Vista Community Band and a special visit from Santa himself.
And there is even more “claus” for celebration, as the City’s reproduced Old World Santas are now appearing around the trees in the park in preparation for the tree lighting. The original 53 Old World Santas first debuted in 2006 after being hand-made by local artists and they soon became a hallmark of the holiday season in Sierra Vista. But their plywood construction deteriorated over time and in 2018 they were no longer fit for display.
The City worked with Stronghold Signs in Sierra Vista to reproduce the original Old World Santas artwork on material designed to stand the test of time. The City turned to the community for help and launched a “Save the Santas” campaign in December 2018. Individuals, groups, and organizations rose to the occasion by making $550 donations to sponsor Santas for reproduction. Now all 53 Old World Santas have been saved!
“We’re overjoyed to see the outpouring of support from local residents and to hear what the Old World Santas have come to mean to local families,” says Judy Hector, City of Sierra Vista marketing and communications manager.
Two of the Old World Santas will be featured as limited run ornaments that will go on sale for $10 each at the tree lighting ceremony while supplies last. Attendees will also be able to vote on which Santas get featured as ornaments next year.
Local resident Jill Brown sponsored one of the two Santas featured as an ornament this year, the Swedish Tompte Santa, in honor of her mother-in-law Barbara Rydberg Brown, who is the great grand niece of Swedish Poet Laureate Viktor Rydberg. He wrote the original poem “Tomten,” which was later adapted by Astrid Lindgren into a classic Swedish children’s book.
Each Santa is unique and they celebrate how people around the world celebrate Christmas and see Santa Claus in different ways. For Brown it was an opportunity to honor her own family’s heritage while also being part of a revitalized tradition that help makes Sierra Vista feel like home.
“When you’re driving down Fry Boulevard and you see all the Santas there around the trees, it gives you that hometown type feeling,” Brown says. “You feel proud that those Santas are in Sierra Vista.”