It's lit! Menlo Park holiday tradition kicks off December

By Sarah Marks

On Friday night, the city of Menlo Park came together in the frosty air to watch the annual tree lighting ceremony. The turnout was spectacular — the park was packed with bundled residents and entertainers.

A special guest of the evening was Jeremy Sutton, digital artist. "I've been doing live painting — digital live painting — for twenty-five years, all over the world. But I have to say, I've never been to a tree lighting ceremony. It's the first time I've ever done this, and I'm really excited," said Sutton. He used an iPad pro, apple pencil, and the ProCreate app to depict the merry scene. 

Credit: Kate Perri / M-A Chronicle.

"What I like in digital is that I get a chance to do art that's a little bit crazy," said Sutton, adding splashes of color to his canvas.

The finished product. Credit: Jeremy Sutton

Entertainment was provided by the Merrie Olde Christmas Carolers, a traveling Bay Area group. "The group is 35 years old," explained soprano Kristen Jenis-Lund. "There's probably around 40 people singing, and we go out in quartets. Some people have been singing for awhile — I've been doing this for 25 years. We practice all together twice a year. By now, I have the whole book memorized. 

"I love singing to the little kids — they've probably never seen people dressed up like this before, in costume," said another soprano, Catherine Sheldon. 

Left to right: John Ellis, Janis-Lund, Sheldon, and Dominic Lim. Credit: Kate Perri / M-A Chronicle.

The history behind the first tree lighting ceremony is unclear. Fran Dehn, Chamber President of Menlo park, said that "several long-term residents recall annual tree lightings at Fremont Park since their childhood, over sixty years ago." However, nobody knows for sure when it really began. Since then, the ceremony has happened annually, with a few breaks like the 2002-2003 years.

“The Holiday Tree Lighting at Fremont Park has been a joint effort between the [Menlo Park] Chamber of Commerce and the City of Menlo Park to bring the community together and kick off the holiday season,” says Matt Milde, the event coordinator. As of 2013, the event was refreshed with an emphasis on complimentary programming.

Setting the stage. Credit: Kate Perri / M-A Chronicle.

Other parts of the night included a fantastic presentation by Menlowe Ballet and a reading of 'Twas the Night Before Christmas before the tree was lit. 

Just before the lighting. Credit: Kate Perri / M-A Chronicle.

At 7:00, the lights came on!

A flurry of fake snow delighted residents just before the conclusion of 2017's tree lighting ceremony.