Happy 30th Anniversary Kelley Square Christmas Tree Lighting!
By Lorraine Michele Laurie
Drive through Kelley Square from January to November and on the right side, near Harding Street, you’ll see a 30-foot Spruce tree near the flagpole at the Kelley Square Gulf Station. Come December 9, you’ll see this same tree transformed into a glistening rainbow of color.
This transformation marks the official welcoming of the Christmas Season to the neighborhood around Kelley Square. The kick-off is a celebration in itself. It is called the “Annual Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony.” This year, the event is scheduled for Saturday at 5 p.m.
The idea to have a neighborhood celebration came from a longtime Island resident named Anne Bacinskas who was a Board member of the Green Island/Vernon Hill Community Development Corporation, newly formed in 1987. The first “ceremony” involved caroling and serving hot cocoa. In the next few years, the event really took off. Coordinated by the Green Island CDC and the Green Island merchants, the festivities took place at the Kelley Square Exxon with a donated gigantic real tree and ornaments made by area children.
The next few years followed in the same manner, with a glitch here and there, like the toppling of the huge tree!! The present tree took its roots in 1994 as part of a grant for trees on Green and Water Streets.
Every year the tree and ceremony grew and grew. Ornaments were made by area children, especially by the students at St. Mary’s Elementary School on nearby Richland Street. There even was a Kelley Square Ornament Contest with prizes donated by local businesses. Begun in 1997, this took place for more than 10 years.
The beautiful handmade ornaments included a Santa and Sleigh made of dog biscuits, an ornament made out of a coconut, a bottle wreath, a Nativity scene, stars and a “gingerbread” house.
With the demise of the Canal District CDC (formerly the Green Island/Vernon Hill CDC) in 2006, the Green Island Residents Group, Inc. voted that the ceremony should continue because it was a neighborhood favorite. The Green Island Residents Group, Inc. has been sponsor ever since.
Come join the neighborhood, local pols and biz folks as we usher in the Christmas Season! Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!