Santa Claus counted down from 10, and thousands of red, green, blue and yellow points of light winked on to punctuate his final cheer of Merry Christmas.
I thought it was going to blind me, marveled Braylen Wallace, 7.
Braylen was one of the first to rush up to greet Santa as the jolly old elf, sans reindeer, emerged from the Pantages Theater to do the honors for downtown Tacomas annual tree-lighting ceremony.
As many as 2,000 people were expected to cycle through the festivities Saturday evening, said Scott Painter, director of operations for the Broadway Center for the Performing Arts. The crowd spilled onto both sides of Broadway, which was closed for the event for the first time, Painter said.
Joint Base Lewis-McChord donated the 60-foot Douglas fir, as the military installation has done every year since the ceremony began in 1945. City workers spent two days decorating the tree, giving it a modern touch by stringing it with energy-efficient, light-emitting diodes.
The Broadway Center screened an interactive, singalong version of The Sound of Music earlier in the evening, giving viewers noisemakers and inviting them to join in a costume contest. The hills were literally alive when a woman showed up dressed as a mountain scene.
The Gardner familys travels kept them away from the movie and costume contest this year, but Ari, 9, and Ruby, 5½, were front and center when Santa made his appearance and the tree lit up.
This Christmas, Ruby is going to ask Santa for an iPod so she can listen to silent music classical music, her mom translated.
Because I dont have any electronics, she explained. If I went to day care, I could bring it and I could play it.
Ari would like twin-tip skis.
I like to ski backward, and theyre better for powder, he said.
Childrens books were handed out at a Radio Disney booth, and the Broadway Center gave away steaming cups of hot chocolate, plus apple cider and candy canes. A military band played. The event gets everybody in the spirit of the holidays, said Ben Bates, the centers house manager.
Its like the living room of Tacoma, Bates said.
Jordan Schrader: 360-786-1826