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Let there be Lights

The town crier's breath billows frosty white at Medford's Vogel Plaza Saturday evening.

"Welcome to Snow Globe Village," he calls.

It is the city's annual Winter Light Festival and Tree Lighting celebration. Christmas carols ring out as parents and children adorned in colorful stocking caps and ski jackets attempt to keep warm by singing, dancing or just jumping up and down.

At the end of one song, two young girls dash past wrapped in a blue fleece blanket as 9-year old Lindsay Richardson makes an important announcement.

"My toes are freeeeezing," she says.

Jordan Sollee's 6-year old cheeks are as pink as her Hello Kitty knit hat. But today has been most "excelle nt," she opines.

The little girl's day began in the morning at the Santo Communty Center. Hawthorne Park hosted the afternoon's festivities, leading to the big finale at Vogel Plaza.

"We had breakfast with Santa Claus, went on a candy cane hunt and ate roasted marshmallows," agrees her mother, Dena Sollee. "It's like being back in New York again at Rockefeller Center, only there's less people."

About 200 people ebb and flow throughout the downtown plaza, drinking hot chocolate and snacking on cookies, kettle corn and bento-style chicken and rice. Some have come to see Santa, some to march in the block-long parade and others are squealing with delight at the antics of the Grinch. Disguised in a Santa suit, the fabled Christmas stealer is leading strings of screaming children about like a naughty green Pied Piper.

One toddler makes a bee-line for a cardboard cutout of a candy cane laced with twinkling multi-colored lights. She manages to give the decoration a big slurp with her tongue before her laughing parents scoop the tot up in their arms.

Dancers, carolers and politicians all have their moment on the stage before the festivities conclude with the tree-lighting ceremony.

This year's tree, a 30-foot Colorado blue spruce, was donated by a family on Randolph Street near St. Mary's School, says Quinnan Kirkland, special events manager for the Medford Parks and Recreation Department.

The city was grateful to receive the towering tree. The tree Medford planted with the intent of it being the holiday evergreen still has some growing to do, she says.

The spruce's former owners, who prefer to remain anonymous, were glad to donate this particular tree as it was too often adorned in something besides colored lights, Kirkland says.

"It was a favorite (toilet paper) target," she says.

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 776-4497, or sspecht@mailtribune.com

Destiny Gower, 1, sits with Santa during the Winter Light Festival and Tree Lighting at Vogel Plaza in downtown Medford Saturday.