Base community kicks of the holidays with one-of-a-kind tradition: lighting a jet.
While many communities may begin the holiday season by lighting trees, the jet-centric community of Naval Air Station Lemoore (NASL) celebrates by lighting the A-4 Skyhawk static display that resides outside the Youth Center, Bldg. 995, on Franklin Avenue.
NASL base Executive Officer, Capt. John Brattain announced this year’s “Jet Lighting,” which occurred the evening of Dec. 1, citing that the base had been carrying on the tradition for 11 years.
“The jet is a long story,” said Brattain. “Basically it was lit 11 years ago because Public Works cut down the one pine/Christmas tree that we did have. Then someone had the 'bright' – sorry couldn’t resist – idea to light the A-4. Everyone had so much fun that the tradition continues to this day – 11 years later.”
Some say that the tree was cut down because it was dying, while others claim it was an accident. While the story isn’t completely clear, one thing is for certain: a one-of-a-kind tradition was born.
The event followed the Trot for Tots 3K/5K, and for the first time, Marines were present at the “Jet Lighting” to collect unwrapped gifts to donate to Toys for Tots. Locals hung out in the chilly weather to witness the lighting, enjoy Spuds pizza and hot chocolate, and line up to see Santa. The Child Youth Programs (CYP) Key Stone band and youth choir provided entertainment.
New this year also, was having two helpers, Frank Johnson and Louie Aguilar, dressed as Santa, to help the lines move faster. The Santas arrived in style on a fire truck, courtesy of NASL Federal Fire Department. Excited children took photos with Santa and received goody bags filled with trinkets and candy canes.
The event was hosted by Morale, Recreation & Welfare and CYP, with help from the Marines and Fleet & Family Services, and sponsorship from USAA, Navy Federal Credit Union, First Command Financial Services and Home Depot.
Children also took train rides on Akers School’s train, built birdhouses with Home Depot volunteers, and had their faces painted, courtesy of CYP.
“The collaboration helped make this year’s jet lighting our best yet,” said the director of the Youth Center, Mickey Nihipali. “I think there were around 1,200 people present.”