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KINGSBURG – Kingsburg kicked off the holiday season with its Julgransfest celebration that included caroling, traditional Swedish singing and dancing, the lighting of the town’s Christmas tree and pictures with Santa.

The tradition of Julgransfest was started by June Hess more than 30 years ago as a way to help local residents and visiting families get into the holiday spirit. Judging by the festive mood, décor and outfits attendees wore, the tradition is carrying on.

Now, the Kingsburg Chamber of Commerce sponsors the event and Director Kaitlyn Castaneda said her favorite part of the event is that it sparks the holiday spirit in the community.

“This kicks off the holiday season. It’s really when the town goes into full holiday effect,” she said, decked out in twinkling lights.

Next up is the annual Santa Lucia celebration that includes the Festival of Lights parade starting at 5:30 p.m. Dec. 1 in Downtown Kingsburg. That event includes, floats, vendors, baked goods, merchants’ specials and Santa’s appearance.

Castaneda recalled her own childhood memories of riding a miniature train, drinking hot cocoa and helping decorate her childhood home. Now, she’s helping Kingsburg residents create memories of their own.

“Kingsburg at Christmas time is amazing. It’s adorable and community friendly. It’s nice to see the entire community join together to light our tree and kick off the holiday.”

Again this year, Amanda Manuszak and Kingsburg High's Dickens Carolers led the procession of caroling from Memorial Park to the center of Draper Street where the city’s Christmas tree was light after the ceremonial countdown.

Mayor Michelle Roman and Swedish Festival Queen Claire Bennett greeted Santa and after the tree lighting, traditional Swedish ring dances entertained old and young alike.

“It’s so fun to dance around the tree with family and friends,” Bennett said afterwards. “This is what makes Kingsburg Kingsburg – family and friends. It’s about how much we celebrate together. It’s the Christmas tree lighting, the dancing and the holiday spirit through the roof. I love it.”

Reflecting on her own childhood memories of the season, Bennett realizes now she’s helping the next generation of children create happy holidays to cherish.

“It reminds me of my childhood, even though I’m still kind of a kid. But this definitely reminds me of when I was a kid. It’s good to reminisce and it makes me feel so good. It’s something they’re totally going to remember and that’s what’s so special about our town. People don’t do this elsewhere.”

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The reporter can be reached at 583-2427 or lbrown@selmaenterprise.com.

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