Six-year-old Caroline Wilson, of Vancouver, and her four-year-old brother Ryan Wilson give Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer high-fives while on Front Street during the first weekend of Leavenworth's Village of Lights Christmastown celebration on Saturday.
Although some of the snow from a previous storm has gone away, Benjamin Gabriel, 10, of Redmond, still has some fun on a sled at Front Street Park in Leavenworth during the first weekend of Leavenworth's Village of Lights Christmastown celebration on Saturday.
LEAVENWORTH — The crowd was constantly moving up and down Front Street in downtown Leavenworth Saturday — children playing in leftover snow, adults listening to live music — but still no gigantic crowd, at least for the Village of Lights’ standards.
A staple in previous years, thousands would attend for a lighting ceremony and a countdown of the nearly 500,000 Christmas lights adorning the shops and trees everywhere in Leavenworth.
The countdown would occur at 4:45 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays over three consecutive weekends, but now the lights stay lit the entire holiday season through Valentine’s Day.
The Leavenworth Chamber of Commerce decided to cancel the lighting ceremony in 2020, one change of many as the entire county reckoned with the COVID-19 pandemic.
In late November 2020, the 14-day COVID-19 rate was nearly 1,000 cases per 100,000 in Chelan County and almost 20 patients were hospitalized at Central Washington Hospital due to COVID.
The Chamber then switched gears completely, announcing the change last year, that the lights would stay on all season. The reasoning is that by spreading out more events throughout the season, the size of crowds and amount of traffic would be reduced during the weekends.
For visitors out of the area, the lighting change is a welcome one as it fits better into their schedules.
“By the time they put the lights on ... everybody’s really tired,” said Molly Frechette, a Portland resident visiting the area with her family. “The kids are burnt out. It’s actually kind of hard when you’ve been here all day. So it’s kind of nice to have them on the whole time.”
It was the Frechette’s first time back to the area since 2019. They said they could recall attending one particular Christmas lighting in the past but preferred this new tradition.
Another group of visitors, Dawn and Kathy Uroff, said they would have missed the lights entirely if not for the change. Their group come from over in Anacortes and Stanwood and would need to drive back.
Cody Hall, who lives and was raised in Leavenworth, spent much of his afternoon dressed as the titular Rudolph — taking selfies and giving out high-fives to folks. He said that the change makes it so things aren’t as crowded.
“This is better,” Hall said. “It makes it easier.”
But ultimately, not much changes for him and his work as a Christmas-themed celebrity.
“I’ve been doing for a couple of years already,” he said. “I always enjoy making the kids, and people laugh and everything. The best thing to do is people make people laugh … That’s always a fun thing to do.”
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