CORCORAN — This week, the City of Corcoran will light its Christmas tree for the 100th time.
The 100th annual Christmas Tree Celebration kicks off Friday evening and, with various activities, lasts all weekend long.
“A lot of people don’t understand, they thinks it’s just a tree that symbolizes Corcoran,” said volunteer and organizer Jay Hammond. “The Corcoran Christmas Tree was put in place in 1919 for the children of Corcoran that wouldn’t have a Christmas otherwise.”
At the time, the small town of Corcoran was comprised mainly of poor farm workers and laborers who had come from all over the United States seeking work and a new life.
Several local organizations wanted to help the local children celebrate Christmas, leading members of the volunteer fire firefighters, the Sequoia Power Company and veterans with the American Legion to take a trip to the Sierra Nevada Mountains to get a tree for the community.
Not only does the tree still come from those mountains every year, but the tradition’s mission remains unchanged, as well.
“It still stands for the same thing,” Hammond said. “There are still families in Corcoran and the surrounding communities that don’t have Christmas. That’s what it symbolizes and that’s what it’s for.”
From 5-9 p.m. Friday, Whitley Avenue in downtown Corcoran will be bustling with Christmas spirit ahead of the ceremonial lighting of this year’s tree. The 100th tree is a blue-tipped spruce that stands 80 feet tall, including its stand. Around 3,400 light bulbs adorn the tree.
"It puts a tear in your eye, it's something to behold," Hammond said.
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Hammond’s family has been involved in the tradition for nearly as long as it’s been around. His two grandfathers helped light the tree in the ‘20s and ‘30s. Hammond has been a part of the ceremony since 1974, when his godfather invited him to help screw in lights. Since then, he‘s had “the bug” to help every year for the past 45 years.
A Corcoran native, Hammond has lived in Hanford since 1989, yet still makes the trips to Corcoran to help keep the Christmas tree tradition alive.
It’s not uncommon for those who longer live in Corcoran proper to keep the tree-lighting tradition in their hearts, said president of the Corcoran Tree Committee, Curt Rowe.
“I’m pretty amazed by the number of people who have moved away from here and still follow that Facebook page,” Rowe said. “It’s become part of Corcoran’s culture to have that tree in that spot.”
It takes about eight adult volunteer and about 30 student volunteers to run the weekend’s festivities, many of which come from the Corcoran High School ROTC and the California Scholarship Federation, Rowe said.
About 2,000 people will attend the ceremony, which is about twice the population of the entire town when the tradition first began.
This year, the tree will be dedicated to anyone and everyone who has worked to help keep the tradition going for the past century.
The weekend-long celebration will begin at 6:30 p.m. Thursday when the Corcoran Chamber of Commerce hosts its annual Christmas Parade.