Wrigley Christmas Tree Lane Parade, light display set for Dec. 8

christmas-village.jpgBy Nick Diamantides
Staff Writer

Plans are underway for the annual Daisy Avenue Christmas Tree Lane Parade, and this year’s event promises to be better than the last, because at least a few of the city-owned trees along the parade route will be decorated with Christmas lights. Last year, none of the city trees had lights due to faulty wiring, some of which has since been replaced.
This week, members of the Long Beach Firefighters Association #372 have begun setting up the traditional displays on the city-owned, landscaped median from Pacific Coast Highway to Hill Street on Daisy Avenue. The event has taken place for more than half a century.
In 1953, local resident Gertrude Whittle wanted to turn that section of Daisy Avenue into a Southern California winter wonderland. She accomplished that task with the help of the Long Beach City Council, several local churches and lots of volunteers. That year a small-scale Christmas Village was built on the strip. The village has its own houses, shops, church, and trees with lights. Neighbors on both sides of Daisy Avenue made it even better by placing elaborate lights and traditional Christmas scenes in their own yards.
Eventually, a formal parade was organized and has been a Long Beach Christmas tradition for about 50 years.
This year’s parade will feature high school bands, clowns, horses, ROTC units, dancers, high school cheerleaders, scout troops, antique bicycles, a fire engine and much more.
Visitors to the lane will be entertained on Sunday, Dec. 9 from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. by the The International Children’s Choir, Ballet Folklorico Izamna and the Apple Creek Cloggers. Santa will also be on hand, giving out candy canes to children from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Dec. 9, 14, 15 and 16.
Displays on the median will continue through Christmas Day, and Christmas trees will stay lit nightly through Wednesday, Jan. 2.
The parade, co-sponsored by the mayor and City Council of Long Beach will begin at about 5 p.m. on Daisy Avenue and Burnett Street. From there it will head south to Pacific Coast Highway, where it will turn around and head north to Hill Street. This year, although several organizations are participating in the event, the Wrigley Area Neighborhood Alliance (WANA) is coordinating it. “We are very excited to be celebrating the 54th anniversary of Christmas Tree Lane,” said WANA member Maria Norvell, who has served as parade chair since 1988. She explained that while the firefighters have volunteered their time to move the displays from storage facilities at the Port of Long Beach to Daisy Lane, more help is needed for the Saturday December 1 work day.”
In previous years, Norvell coordinated the event as a member of the Wrigley Neighborhood Association. However, earlier this year, members of that organization disagreed among themselves on how much of the group’s time and energy should be devoted to Christmas Tree Lane. Those who wanted it to be a main focus started WANA and a nonprofit fundraising affiliate called Friends of WANA that accepts tax-deductible donations for the Christmas Tree Lane lights and displays.
For many years, the City of Long Beach supplied most of the funds for the event, but in the 1980s, budget shortfalls forced the city to sharply reduce its support, and donations from individuals and organizations became more important.
In past years, donations for Christmas Tree Lane were collected by the Wrigley Association, which kept a special fund in reserve for the event. “Several months ago we gave a $12,000 check to Partners in Parks (a local group that funds special projects in Long Beach) to be spent on Christmas Tree Lane,” said Gavin McKiernan, Wrigley Association board member. “More recently, we gave a $7,000 check to the City of Long Beach to help pay for the event.”
While preparations for the event are going well, in the past few weeks, confusion has arisen as to who owns the displays that are set up on Christmas Tree Lane. “Those displays have been the property of the Wrigley Association for many years,” McKiernan said.
Joan Greenwood, who is a board member of the Wrigley Association and the secretary of WANA, disagreed. “The displays were built by volunteers and city employees many years ago,” she said. “It is my understanding that they are owned by the City of Long Beach.”
David Ashman, manager of special events for the city’s Department of Parks Recreation and Marine, said he was not clear on who owned the displays. “For years, I think the assumption was that they were owned by the Wrigley Association,” he said. “But WANA has invested a lot of time and money to restore them in the past few months, and they have done a terrific job. I think the two groups will resolve that issue later. For now, the main thing is that the displays will look great on Christmas Tree Lane.”
Some of those displays were built in the 1950s. “All of them have been made to look as good or better than they did when they were first made,” Norvell said. “This is going to be a good year for Christmas Tree Lane.” For more information about volunteering, donating or participating in the parade, phone (562) 427-5021.

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One comment on “Wrigley Christmas Tree Lane Parade, light display set for Dec. 8
  1. Pingback: It’s Holiday Season… Almost « Tommy’s Weblog

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