The Corvallis Community Christmas Celebration and Tree Lighting event, a long-standing tradition, will be held at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 4, at Corvallis High School.
The Marty Litvin Memorial Tree Lighting will be accompanied by the Corvallis High School choir and jazz band as they play holiday music and Santa will be there to meet children and listen to their requests.
Carol Peterson, historian for the event, said that Bob (a member of the local Sportsman’s Club) and Alice “Chub” Carmichael started the community sing event in 1945, right after World War II.
“They are the parents of Wilma Allen and Janice Parks,” Peterson said. “Bob was a logger, so he would look all year for the perfect tree, mark it, cut it, then they would put it in a hole on Main Street in front of the then Masonic Hall.”
They had a trailer, a stand, a fully-developed program and invited people.”
According to the historical binder, Ed Bay, Roy Thomas and Bob Carmichael would have a Christmas carnival with a cake walk, darts and kids activities.
Bob Olsen provided the sound system for Christmas music.
Peterson said that Wilma Rasmussen used to come each year and it was her uncle, Jack Hawker, who always sang "Silent Night."
“Wilma has passed away but her great-grandson, Aidan Rasmussen McGee, will sing in the choir this year,” Peterson said.
Other highlights have been recorded like in 1967 Lynn Nobles Darnfeld sang “O Holy Night,” in 1996 with featured singers Daniel Sybrant, Bill Weatherald, Gina Wilson, Mary Jo Rall and Caren Fogel, and in 2001 Rachael Carney sang “Hark the Herald Angels Sing.”
Popcorn balls were part of the tradition and Larry Lomoroux kept the recipe on his basement wall for popcorn ball making parties.
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“Now we’re using Sally Sylvester’s popcorn ball recipe but we have a long history with that too,” Peterson said.
The recipe starts, “for 200 balls, use five pounds of popcorn, one quart oil, four quarts of Karo syrup.”
Santa has been coming every year and has been portrayed by various community members including Doug Sperry (in a Santa suit made by Margaret Sperry), and Helen Burke as Mrs. Claus, Chuck McRae and Don Tibbs.
In 2003, Vera Rummel remembered when St. Bernard dogs brought Santa Claus to the Christmas sing.
During the early 1990s Santa would ride a fire truck through town and hand out bags of candy and popcorn balls to the community children who didn’t attend the singing and tree-lighting event.
For a few years the Corvallis Primary School hosted the event under the direction of Nettie Brown and each of the local churches shared the spotlight.
Corvallis biology teacher Marty Litvin died in an avalanche Jan. 4, 1998. In 1999, the Christmas sing was held at his house. A tree was planted in his honor in 2000 in front of Corvallis High School and it became the community’s Christmas tree.
“We used Marty Litvin’s fishing pole to put the lights up that year,” Peterson said. “Since then we’ve had various classes make decorations.”
Peterson has a three-ring binder with photos, autographs of attendees and details of the Corvallis Tree Lighting and Community Sing tradition.
This year’s event partners include American Legion Auxiliary #91 (popcorn balls and juice), Bitterroot Women’s Club (cookies), Bitterroot Tree Service (decorated tree), Corvallis Civic Club (candy) and the Corvallis School District (hosting and entertainment).
The Corvallis Community Christmas Celebration and Tree Lighting free event at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 4, at Corvallis High School, is open to the public and everyone is invited.