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Christmas Tree Lane celebrates 90 years (VIDEO)

As the Christmas season draws closer, many locals have started to build excitement for the 90th annual Christmas Tree Lane (CTL), Dec. 1-25. This year the Lane opens with the first of two walk nights (no vehicles allowed Dec. 1 and Dec. 11).

In honor of a child who died, the CTL tradition began in 1920 with the decoration of one tree. The observance has continued each year, except during 1941 and 1973 when it was stopped due to war restrictions and an energy crisis.

On the opening night of Fresno’s CTL, millions of lights will come to life at 6 p.m. and will remain lit until closing at 10 p.m., Dec. 1. Over 140 homes and 300 trees are decorated and will be displayed over a span of nearly two miles. The Lane is located on Van Ness Blvd., between Shields Ave. and Shaw Ave.

According to the Fig Garden Homeowners Association, who sponsors the event, CTL has gained national recognition in the Washington Post and has been deemed the nation?s longest-running holiday event. Every year, the Lane is known to gather more than 100,000 people who come to see the millions of colorful lights that line the neighborhood.

FC’s ensemble will be performing at the Lane on the corner of Ashlan and Van Ness, Dec. 1, from 6-7:30 p.m. They plan to sing “Jingle Bells,” “Away in a Manger” and “Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer.” Jazz band was also scheduled to perform but due to weather conditions they were unable to participate in the occasion.

The County Office of Education is asking many schools from all over California to come perform on the street. This is the first time that FC has gone out to sing on the Lane. Music Director Michael Ogdon looks forward to the event, appreciating their invitation to the Lane.

“I’m really looking forward to taking my students to the Lane,” Ogdon said. “I really just want to reach out to the community, because all we really have to do is stand there and sing, and they just come out and watch us.”

Katie Barisic, ’13, a resident of the Lane, enjoys living in the environment of the Christmas spirit but does not get as enthusiastic with decorations as other houses do.

“I?ve lived on Christmas Tree Lane my whole life,” Barisic said. “Seeing as my whole yard is covered in trees, we don?t decorate that much because what?s the point of decorating if you can?t even see all of the lights?”

Morgan Miller, ’16, drove down the Lane with her family a few years ago and enjoyed it immensely. The memories that she made back then have caused her to anticipate returning again this year.

“I remember when I was about 10 years old and my parents, aunt, uncle, brother and I all walked together down Christmas Tree Lane,” Miller said. “I was so excited that I couldn?t keep still. My dad actually had to stop the car to allow me, my aunt, mom and brother to get out of the car so we could walk the rest of the way. It was so beautiful and it is something I will never forget.”

Unlike some people who love the event and look forward to walking the Lane, there are a few who do not appreciate the experience. Although he has walked the Lane before, freshman Bailey Brogan does not enjoy CTL because of the large crowds and traffic.

“I?ve walked the Lane once before, and I very much regret it,” Brogan said. “Everything was far too busy and I felt like I was being forced around by herds of people.”

According to Dean Alexander, coordinator of CTL, the festivities did not start specifically for the holidays but as the result of a horrific event.

“In 1919, a sophomore at Fresno High was working in a generator room, somehow got caught and tragically died,” Alexander said. “That year, a friend or family member decorated a tree outside of their home in lights as to remember the deceased. After those years, people started to catch on and one by one also started decorating the outsides of their houses.”

Alexander believes that CTL is a very unique place that only exists in America and says that there is no other place like it.

“This is the only place in America that is this bright and beautiful,” Alexander said, “The two miles of trees and lights just makes for a beautiful time with the family. I wouldn?t want to live anywhere else besides from where I am right now. Christmas is a lovely time of the year, especially when the Lane celebrates in.”

While the tradition brings excitement and creates many memories, Alexander agrees that there are cons for living on the lane, especially with the hassel of cleaning up.

“But there are always cons,” Alexander said. “Opening your neighborhood to the public and having huge crowds of people gathering around, is just an inconvenience for all of my neighbors. There are always vendors who go and try to sell different objects to the people there and we try to keep them away when we can. Also, we have to clean up after the night ends because kids and adults just litter and throw their trash on the ground, making it our responsibility to pick it up after them.”

Alexander explains why he loves living on the Lane, mostly because he likes to reach out to the community and to show that he cares for people who live in California

“The kids that go down the Lane for the first time is just wonderful,” Alexander said. “I really enjoy living on this street because I just love to give back to the community. Seeing high schools and the community contribute to this event in their free time, and just volunteering, it really makes the setting up and everything else go a lot smoother and faster.”

The lane is open from 6-11 p.m. The second walk is scheduled for Dec. 11. The lights will be lit through Dec. 25. For more information, call the Fig Garden Homeowners Association at 559.348.9200.

Editor’s note: Check back soon for more photos in the slideshow.

Tree Fresno operates a shuttle from Fig Garden Financial Center (Shaw and Palm) to bring walkers to the beginning of the walk (on Van Ness just north of Shields) for $5. Tickets for the ride can be purchased at Whole Foods, Walgreens and at the Tree Fresno office. For group reservations, call 559.221.5556.

For more news, read the Nov. 27 article, BRIEF: Feather staff sells Candy Cane Grams.

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