Saturday, November 24, 2007
Pioneer Courthouse Square: Christmas Tree Lighting on Nov. 23
After work I made my way by bus across the Willamette, getting off at SW 2nd and Taylor, like always. But this evening was different, clear and cold and filled with people walking as far as I could see. I joined them, and we walked toward Pioneer Courthouse Square, situtated between SW Broadway on the west, SW 6th Avenue on the east, SW Yamhill on the south, and SW Morrison on the north. The MAX runs to the east on Yamhill and to the west on Morrison. Lots of people ride the MAX or a TriMet bus to the Christmas tree lighting ceremony, always held on the Friday evening after Thanksgiving. The 75-foot Douglas fir, donated ty Stimson Lumber in Gaston, Oregon, waited patiently as the crowd gathered.
Once I found a place to stand, almost at the southeast corner of the square, I got Flat Stanley out of my rolling bag and tucked him into the front of my coat. Standing at the top of a short flight of steps, beside a brick wall which meant at least one side of me would be protected from the jostling of the crowd, I was also excited at the view I had of the tree just past the ride side of a woman sitting on the wall. Not five minutes later a man scooted up onto the waist-high brick wall and sat right beside her, blocking my view of the tree by at least 85 percent. Oh, well, I knew that I could count on having a clear view at some point before I walked off to catch a #15 home, over at the corner of SW Washington and Broadway.
You can see by the difference in these two photos that the crowd soon overflowed the square, filling SW 6th Avenue in front of the Pioneer Courthouse, the oldest federal building in the Pacific Northwest and the second oldest west of the Mississippi River. I got to my spot about 5:15 p.m., so I imagine that I took the first photo by 5:25 p.m. The street is SW Yamhill, looking southeast. About 20 minutes later the same corner looked like the second photo. Multiply that scene on all four corners plus the entire block which the square occupies--lots and lots of people, just like last year. Marvelous.
While we waited the Portland Jazz Orchestra, resident ensemble of the Portland Jazz Festival, and vocalist Valerie Day entertained with Christmas music. It was obvious that the crowd liked best their New Orleans-style version of one song--I swore I'd remember which one and now I can't, doggone it--maybe it was "I'll Be Home for Christmas." Anyway, it got a roaring response as the last note wafted away above our heads. Before long, we started to sing Christmas carols with Day and the musicians. I lucked out this year and managed to get a copy of the "Winter at the Square," an event guide and songbook. Neat!
KGW Channel 8, the NBC affiliate, covered the event live by helicopter, so the flipping of the switch had to happen precisely at 6:11 p.m. We joined the 5-4-3-2-1 countdown and I clicked this photo just as the lights blazed.
A few minutes later the man moved out of the way, the man whose side you can see in the photo of the lit tree, and I set Flat Stanley on the waist-high brick wall for this shot. Look how happy he is to be there! I felt the same way, despite the cold.
Once I thought I could get close enough for a photo of the bandstand for you, I walked down the steps and inched my way through the crowd diagonally across the square. Another flight of steps afforded me the chance to get this photo. Every step of the way, I sang along. It was wonderful because no one could hear me since there were so many voices raised in song. I let got and had fun!
Parallel with the north side of the square, folks boarded the westbound MAX.
I hope you like this photo of the MAX heading west on the street decorated with lights. I do.