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Christmas Tree Lane illuminates holiday season

The holiday season heralds the arrival of an annual attraction in the Fresno area: Christmas Tree Lane. The neighborhood around Van Ness Boulevard between Shields Avenue and Shaw Avenue, known locally as “Old Fig,” decorates about 140 homes and 300 trees, as well as lawns, with festive lights and ornaments for Fresno residents to enjoy.

The tradition, now in its 86th year, began in 1920 with the decoration of a single tree in the memory of a child who died. Now the annual festivities stretch across almost two miles and attract more than 100,000 visitors each year, according to its Web site.

Patrons can experience Christmas Tree Lane each night from 6-11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and 6-10 p.m. throughout the rest of the week. The only remaining walk night, during which no vehicles are allowed, will be on Dec. 10. The event will remain open until Dec. 28.

Although a free event sponsored by the Fig Garden Homeowners Association, donations are appreciated to assist with costs of installation and maintenance.

For many families, the decoration of homes and Christmas trees as well as the arrangement of lights occupy the weeks before Christmas Day. As an incentive for Fig Garden homeowners to continue the Christmas Tree Lane tradition, the city government helps pay for lights and other electrical equipment each year.

As an 18-year resident of Fig Garden, Mitzie Scelzi looks forward to the opening night of Christmas Tree Lane each year.

“It always gets me in the holiday spirit,” Scelzi said. “Almost all the people are nice and they wish me a merry Christmas. Also, I feel like I am giving back to the community.”

While Scelzi enjoys most aspects of her position as a homeowner on the Lane, her husband James dislikes the high traffic to the area as well as the labor involved with setting up each year.

“I love the lane, but it is a lot of work,” James said. “I have to deal with people who are not always pleasant, but for the most part, it is fine.”

The Christmas Tree Lane traditions extend beyond the homeowners’ decoration, often resulting in annual plans with friends or families to experience the attraction as a group. Along with her family, Alyssa Colby participates in one of the two walk nights every year.

“I love the lane,? Colby, a sophomore at University High School, said. ?I have walked down the lane every year since I was old enough to go out in the cold. I cannot wait to go to the lane this year!”

Residents of the Christmas Tree Lane area often invite friends and family to parties when it opens each year. As such, sophomore Kelsey Hart is planning to go to a walk night party with her friends.

“I am so excited to walk the lane,” Hart said. “I cannot wait to walk down the lane with my friends and be all toasty warm with hot chocolate.”

To take advantage of the remaining Dec. 10 walk day, FC students interested in walking Christmas Tree Lane will meet at the entrance, just north of Shields Avenue, at 6:45 p.m. and begin walking at 7:15. In order to help promote this group event, students are advised to wear red, green or other festive attire to school.

For more information on Christmas Tree Lane, read the Dec. 10, 2007, article, Lane lights 85-year tradition.

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