KINGSBURG – The tradition June Hess started more than three decades ago continues to bring young and old alike out to sing holiday songs, bop along to traditional Swedish ring dances and share wish lists with Santa on Nov. 24.
The Julgransfest, or Christmas Tree celebration, was created to officially kick start the holiday season and give visiting family members something festive to take part in, Hess said.
This year, Amanda Manuszak continued to lead the crowd, with help from the costumed Kingsburg High Dickens Carolers, in caroling down Draper Street to the community Christmas tree. She took over from former Chamber Director Jesse Chambers and is now accompanied by her husband and daughter, Ben and Evie Manuszak, in the procession.
As strains of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” gave way to “Oh Come All Ye Faithful,’ the Manuszaks lead the way to front of the tree where Mayor Michelle Roman welcomed the community and Santa lead the countdown to the tree lighting.
Manuszak said it’s fun to watch the crowds singing, clapping and dancing along to the songs.
“The first one is called ‘Vi äro musikanter.’ It says we’re musicians from Skaraborg and we can play the violin and the bass and the flute. Then they can run around and dance.”
As simple as the event is, Manuszak said she loves the tradition of it all.
“I remember coming to this when it was much smaller when I was a kid. I really love that it’s just hanging out with your family and singing Christmas carols.”
Swedish Festival Queen Lindsey Roman greeted visitors and said she too recalls dancing and wearing traditional Swedish clothing at Julgransfest events when she was much younger.
“My favorite [dance] is the carousel one where dancers switch dancing in different directions quickly.”
Presley Thurman, 4, was among children lining up to get a picture with Santa. She even wore a reindeer costume for the occasion.
“The best part was the songs. I liked ‘Jingle Bells.’ These are all my cousins,” she said of the children in their group smiling for a picture with Santa.
Mayor Roman said the warmer weather likely led to the night’s large turnout and that she loved seeing so many taking part.
“Not only did we have a great turnout, but I think we had more people dancing this year than usual. I love to see people participating. It brings the community together and it’s such a great time of year. The holidays are all about getting everyone together. When I see the lights go up, then I know it’s officially this special time of year.”