HERMISTON — Hermiston's annual holiday tree is in the ground and ready to bring some Christmas cheer to downtown.

The city, with the help of equipment and workers from Umatilla Electric Cooperative, "planted" the tall tree on the festival street on Northeast Second Street next to city hall on Monday, Nov. 30.

This year's tree was donated by Brenda and Whitley Smith of Hermiston, from their yard. Brenda said the tree was there when they bought the house about 29 years ago, and it's "grown pretty big" in the years since. The Smiths were concerned about its growth into the nearby power lines, and so when Parks and Recreation Director Larry Fetter offered to take it off their hands for free and give it new life as the downtown Christmas tree, they took the offer.

"We decided it was probably time to let other people enjoy it," Brenda said.

She said she drove down after UEC removed the tree and installed it downtown, and she was proud to see it there.

"It looks nice," she said. "We're kind of excited other people get to enjoy it. We've enjoyed watching the birds in it. They'll be surprised it's not there anymore, but they'll adjust, I suppose."

The tree will be decorated over the next few days before a live-streamed Christmas tree lighting event with Santa Claus on Thursday, Dec. 3. Fetter said this year people will have to enjoy the event from the safety of their homes rather than gathering for an in-person celebration, but after the tree is lit, it will be available for people to come and take pictures with on their own schedule during the month of December. 

The virtual event on Dec. 3 will be streamed on the city's social media platforms from 5:30-6:30 p.m., with the actual tree lighting by Santa at 6 p.m. Before and after the tree lighting will be holiday musical performances and readings of holiday stories.

After the tree is done serving its purpose downtown, it will be chopped up for firewood and donated to the Agape House.

Although people are asked to watch the Christmas tree lighting virtually, the Hermiston Downtown District will still hold its First Thursday event. Downtown merchants will have sales for Ladies' Day from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Dec. 3.

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