Sacramento’s holiday lights will shine a little less brightly this season when Westfield Downtown Plaza goes without a giant Christmas tree for the first time in 30 years.
Without a tree, the annual day-after-Thanksgiving tree lighting ceremony at the mall's Seventh and K streets entrance also won't be held. However, the plaza is likely to be the only place in Sacramento with a little snow this winter after artificial snow-making machines are set up in a children's play area.
Sacramentans can enjoy two other Christmas tree lightings. Old Sacramento will light up its huge tree at 6 p.m. Wednesday at K and Front streets, followed by a light show and more to set the historic district sparkling. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger will host a tree lighting ceremony at the state Capitol at 5 p.m. Dec. 7.
The plaza has had a tree averaging about 50 feet tall for the last 29 years, Plaza Marketing Director Raelene Trumm said.
"We're not doing the tree this year," Trumm said. "There's a tree lighting at Old Sacramento and one at the Capitol, so it seemed to get lost in the middle."
Westfield Downtown Plaza is the title sponsor of the ice-skating rink, which lies in St. Rose of Lima Park across the street from the Seventh and K streets entrance. Management decided to decorate the entire plaza with about 16 smaller Christmas trees, Christmas lights and window decorations rather than focus on one end. On Tuesday, crews began installing trees, Trumm said.
"We just wanted to add more Christmas atmosphere throughout the mall," said Trumm, adding that the economy and work at the Seventh and K entrance also contributed to the decision. She couldn't say whether there would be a tree at the plaza next year.
Macy’s Christmas store has temporarily set up shop in the second-floor space vacated by Banana Republic, near the K and Seventh streets entrance.
In Old Sacramento, a crew of four used an 80-foot boom to decorate the 5,000-pound, 50-foot blue spruce trucked in from Carlton Christmas Trees, a farm near Mt. Shasta. The crew strung up more than 4,000 lights: traditional colored Christmas tree lights, icicle lights, twinkle and flicker lights, and strobes. Ornaments range from plastic candy, bells and balls to handmade ornaments celebrating the 1857 poem, "The Night Before Christmas."
At least eight people helped decorate buildings and install lighting and sound equipment, said Old Sacramento Business Association Executive Director Melissa Martinez.
The district is adding holiday scenes and expanding the Theatre of Lights, a light and sound show begun last year. The 20-minute show will operate at 6 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., Thursdays through Sundays, throughout the season. On certain nights, Old Sacramento will also host Santa and other street performers, TV personalities and vendors selling cocoa and spiced nuts.
"This is the best year yet," Martinez said. "We've really concentrated on bringing it up to a different level and increasing the wow factor."
Photos of Christmas tree installations at the state Capitol and in Old Sacramento by Katie Garner. Other photos by Suzanne Hurt, a staff reporter for The Sacramento Press.