Santa Claus is coming to downtown after all.

After Medford's Winter Light Festival nearly went dark, the annual celebration has been revived this year.

There most certainly is going to be Christmas in downtown Medford, said Lisa Lincoln, coordinator of what has been a sporadically celebrated event for 107 years.

Downtown business owners picked up the baton when Glenda Owens, assistant to the city manager, announced last winter she had to drop it due to the excessive amount of time she was volunteering coordinating the event.

In addition to Lincoln, Scott Henselman of Henselman Realty and Management, Renae Dixon of Key Bank, Ron Flamm of Hot Pots and Eric Maxwell of Papillon Rouge have headed up volunteer efforts for the 15th annual light festival.
— Lincoln, branch manager of the downtown US Bank, said the stars, the lights and the decorated tree are all going into place, beginning with the placement of a tree Thursday. The city has invested &

36;45,000 over the years in decorations for Main Street.

The Santas hanging from buildings and the candy cane hunt in Hawthorne Park have gone the way of Christmas Past, however.

The tree will be a 35-foot blue spruce donated by John and Becky Plane, who are planning new landscaping in their front yard in the spring.

It (the tree) has grown much faster than we anticipated, said John Plane.

He said they planted the tree 15 years ago, but it's taken over the yard on Roberts Road.

The roots are headed over toward the foundation, he said.

Lincoln says most of the decorating will take place Friday and Saturday, and additional decorations, including colorful packages around the base of the tree, are in store.

The tree-lighting and caroling celebration will be held 5 to 8 p.m. Nov. 26 at Vogel Plaza. Main Street will be closed and Mayor Gary Wheeler will light the tree at 6:45 p.m. Free hot chocolate, coffee and roasted chestnuts will be available at the event, which is free and open to the public. There will be performances by the North Medford High School Brass Quintet and South Medford Ensemble Choir, as well as soloist Megan Muriset. Santa and Mrs. Claus will be on hand to hear Christmas wishes. The St. Mary's Choir will lead caroling.

Lincoln attributes the success in part to finding solid funding.

In the past we had fund-raisers, said Lincoln. (This year) we asked for corporate sponsorship.

She said companies such as US Bank, Harry & David/Bear Creek Corp., the and Pacific Power offered donations.

She said the plan is to expand the tradition over the next few years and bring in vendors and activities.

We would like to make it an all-day affair, she said.

More than a century of holiday cheer

History of downtown Medford's winter holiday celebration:

u 1898

' Holiday concerts held downtown in conjunction with New Year's.

u 1915

' The city's first official Christmas tree is lit by Mayor Vernon Emerick.

u 1930s

' Downtown merchants stage celebrations to mark the opening of the Christmas shopping season, and in 1939, Santa Claus comes to town.

u 1946

' Christmas celebrations resume after World War II.

u 1953

' Downtown merchants organize a parade, which is held every year until 1957.

u 1990

' The tree-lighting ceremony is brought to life in Alba Park by efforts of radio personality Bob White (now known as Neale Donald Walsch, author of the popular Conversations with God books).

u 1997

' Scott and Leesa Henselman, of Henselman Realty & Management, take over the event, bringing lights and a large tree to Vogel Plaza; Medford Urban Renewal Agency handles the event one year, and the Heart of Medford takes it on a couple years.

u 2002

' The Winter Light Festival nonprofit organization forms, with a city staff member as liaison volunteering.

u 2005

' Private businesses take the lead for Winter Light Festival efforts, with the city as partner.

Reach reporter Meg Landers at 776-4481 or e-mail Holiday lights will brighten Medford skies"