About 500 people braved 38 degrees and rain Saturday evening to watch the annual lighting of the Christmas tree on the Douglas County Courthouse lawn in Roseburg.
Most maintained good cheer despite a long wait for the ceremony to begin.
Santa arrived by fire truck and two camels peacefully gazed out at the gathering crowd from nativity scene at the First Christian Church across the street from the courthouse.
As they waited, the crowd was entertained by Douglas High School cheerleaders dancing to Christmas favorites, with some in the crowd singing along. The Roseburg High School choir Vocal Fusion sang several numbers, too.
Commissioner Tom Kress called for the children to come up to the courthouse steps, and then read Dr. Seuss’s “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!”
After that, Mayor Larry Rich introduced the four children who would light up the tree — Zalaya Watts, Fir Grove Elementary School third grader; Danika Owens, Fir Grove second grader; David Moxley, Eastwood Elementary School fourth grader; and Shyanna Moore, Eastwood third grader. As they prepared to flip the switch together, the crowd counted down from 10 and loudly cheered when the lights went on.
The two camels in the nativity scene this year were named Lego and Buckwheat. They belong to Kyle McGranahan, of Yoncalla, who dressed up as a shepherd for the scene.
McGranahan said he plans to bring his camels to nativity scenes around Oregon and in Washington this Christmas season.
“They’re very personable,” he said. “They each have their own individual personalities, very very docile, extremely docile animals.”
It’s the first time McGranahan has brought his camels to this event, but he said there were some camels from Wildlife Safari at the event a few years ago.
He said the camels add a lot.
“Just the story of the journey to Bethlehem, the camels with the three wise men and hauling the goods for them. They’re extremely important, they really are,” he said.
Greg and Serina Gardin of Roseburg and their three youngest children were attending the courthouse Christmas tree lighting for the first time Saturday.
“We just moved back into town, so we’re looking to make new traditions for our family since we’re putting down roots,” Greg Gardin said.
The kids, ages 9 to 12, were happy to see Santa Claus, and Serina Gardin said they still believe in him.
“All three of them do, they do but they don’t. They like the magic of it,” she said.
Zephyr, 12, is optimistic Santa will be bringing gifts to his house this Christmas.
“I think he’s going to come. He kind of has to. Though I’ve wondered how he does it with the schedule and stuff,” Zephyr said.
Michelle and Tyler Williams of Myrtle Creek were at the tree lighting for the first time Saturday, too, along with their daughter Riley Williams, 7.
They were excited to see the nativity scene and the tree lighting, and grateful for the free hot cider and hot chocolate to keep their hands warm. They also got some Christmas shopping in beforehand.
“We made a day of it though and we went around to some of the small businesses because of Small Business Saturday, did a little bit of shopping,” she said.
She wouldn’t say what they bought.
“I don’t want to give away the Christmas presents for the grandmas. It’s a surprise but I’m hoping they’ll like it,” she said.
Rachel Williamson, of Roseburg was a first timer, too. She attended with her two kids, ages 6 and 3.
“I know that the kids will enjoy it, the beginning of the Christmas spirit,” she said.
She has a lot of family Christmas celebrations ahead with different groups of family, so she’s expecting some work to get ready.
“Having a lit tree when I drive downtown will make me a little more excited for Christmas,” she said.