Inaugural Christmas events light up weekend

Bohemia Park’s central decoration illuminated the fountain during the Christmas Kick-Off.

The success of two inaugural Christmas events last weekend may have laid the groundwork for new winter traditions in Cottage Grove.

Both the Christmas Kick-Off at Bohemia Park on Saturday and the four-day-long Christmas at the WOE (Western Oregon Exposition) reported overwhelmingly positive turnouts to their first-year events.

“It was a perfect start to the holiday season,” said Chamber of Commerce CEO/President Shauna Neigh.

Saturday evening’s Christmas Kick-Off brought life to Bohemia Park with a public tree lighting, carols and the “Festival of Trees” giveaway, the latter of which distributed 41 trees into the community by lottery.

Park pathways were lined with dozens of local businesses’ and organizations’ uniquely decorated Christmas trees which were raffled away at the end of the evening.

By all accounts, the event’s first-year launch was a truly successful rallying of the community.

Lincoln Middle School and Cottage Grove High School choir members sang carols and Friends of the Library provided stories. The Cottage Grove Police Department and South Lane County Fire and Rescue made sure Santa and Mrs. Clause arrived safely. All the while, members of the faith community donated their time to serve soup and warm beverages.

“I would like to thank the families and significant others who worked tirelessly in support of the event coordinators,” said Neigh. “Also, the City of Cottage Grove and staff who went above and beyond and the local businesses and nonprofits who donated their time, money, heaters and decorations.”

Some 2,000 people or more were estimated to have attended the event. Event Coordinator Shane May shared that 1,600 bowls of soup and more than 30 gallons of hot beverages were handed out, with hundreds of children getting their chance to visit Santa and Mrs. Clause or write letters at the coloring station.

“And one of my favorite stats: we’ve found zero negativity on social media,” he posted. “Matter of fact, quite the opposite.”

Organizers are looking forward to making the event an annual tradition in Cottage Grove due to the success of this year’s launch.

“It really was one of the most delightful community events I’ve ever been to or been part of, especially in the past few years,” said community member Samantha Duncan in comments to organizers. “This was a huge undertaking and a ton of work for you all, and I don’t think it could have gone any better, especially for the first time. It was just what this community needed.”

Meanwhile, the Western Oregon Exposition, located by the Cottage Grove Speedway, reported another successful inaugural launch on the other side of town.

“We were very pleased with the turnout,” said WOE board member Alice Nowicki.

Christmas at the WOE, though relatively smaller than the Bohemia Park event, spread over four days, offering shopping with several local vendors, food and drink, photos with Santa, a live nativity scene with locally-borrowed animals, appearances from Disney’s Frozen princesses Elsa and Anna and different musical performances each night.

In addition, the event collected two barrels of food and $165 in cash donations to be distributed to local nonprofit Community Sharing.

The idea for Christmas at the WOE began after the Village Green announced it would not hold its annual lighting event in its garden. The Village Green has recently changed owners and is likely to lose its famous garden in the new construction process.

“We just thought that the community could have another event,” said Nowicki, who also a key organizer of the WOE event. “Just to give another opportunity for more activity in the community. And we went from there.”

A handful of people and organizations came together to make the event possible, including area granges and a generous donation of Christmas lighting and decorations from area resident Duane Taddei.

In all, 25 vendors took part in the event, many of whom reported selling out.

“They all had really remarkable sales,” said Nowicki.

As with the Bohemia Park event, organizers of Christmas at the WOE are convinced that this year’s success will translate into “bigger and better” future events.

“If we can do it, it will continue on,” Nowicki said. “Our goal was to give people Christmas memories and I think we did that.”

For more photos of the events, see page A9.

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