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Tree Lighting Returns To Downtown Park
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Work donated by Windy Tree, Inc. crews recently saw the pruning and shaping of a tree in Wood Park downtown in the city, getting it ready for the holiday season and a special tree lighting. Photo Contributed

Some might say it’s a Christmas wish granted by way of social media.

And while many may still shun and scoff at the communication tool used daily by hundreds of thousands, it is indeed to be partially credited for “A Small Town Christmas,” to be hosted at Wood Park and scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 2 at 6 p.m.

“It was really born out of Facebook complaints,” Love Oakdale Director, Lisa Kjeldgaard said, referring to a post from the 2022 holiday season. “People were really missing the trees and the decorations downtown.”

During the holidays last year, community members had noticed the trees which were once present annually at Wood Park were absent. The post led to conversation and questions as to why the City did not do more in terms of of decorating the streets and where had the trees and Wood Park decorations disappeared to.

Kjeldgaard, with the help of Mayor Cher Bairos, learned that all had been given to Oakdale FFA by the Oakdale Garden Club to continue the tradition. With the team’s schedule being loaded by school and FFA events, the set-up for 2022 just did not happen. Yet not to worry, nor to fret as now a team of community members using resources through Love Oakdale have rallied to bring the holiday spirit back to the park at the heart of town, at the intersection of F and Yosemite.

“FFA has taken great care of them,” Kjeldgaard said of the holiday decor and trees. “They’ve been stored in a container at the high school. Everything is in great shape. Mr. Robles (ag teacher and FFA advisor) has been fantastic.”

Kjeldgaard further stated this has not been a one club event, but rather a collaboration of efforts with several community groups and volunteers including: Oakdale Chamber of Commerce, Oakdale Enrichment Society, Soroptimist International of Oakdale and individual efforts by Mindy Johnson managing marketing and the Instagram account.

Longtime community member and avid volunteer Amy Velasco and her husband Jesse added an additional fun idea to the festive event, locating light arches which will light up the pathway as visitors stop by to look at the trees. Through the sponsorship of Oakdale Soccer Association, Stueve Ranches and Bloomingcamp Ranch, all the arches have been purchased for set up.

This year will be a bit different than it has been in past years, Kjeldgaard explained, as the groups look for fundraising opportunities to provide money for future years’ decorations.

“The goal is to make some money this year to purchase additional decorations for years to come,” she said. “We’d love to see wreaths on the light posts and banners around town. We need to spend this year collecting some money, so we can spend May and June purchasing things so we can decorate Christmas all around town for years to come, not just at the corner.”

To help with those efforts all decorations which will be put up will be done through the use of sponsorships from local organizations, businesses, families or individuals.

Those interested in decorating their own tree may do so for a $100 donation. The donation price provides the donor with an artificial tree in Wood Park and power for lights.

Wooden cut outs may also be sponsored for fees ranging from as low as $50 to $500.

“We have 58 Candy Canes,” Kjeldgaard said of the wooden decor. “Kayleigh Gilbert is actually heading up an effort to get those cleaned up and repainted, so if anybody would like to help her on the 18th (of November) at the IMDES Portuguese Hall, she would love to have your help out there.”

Other added attractions to the return of the event are a partnership with Community Hospice and Health Services who will have the honors of lighting the large tree in the center of Wood Park. A large sleigh was also donated to the event by former community member Tony Rodgers just prior to relocating to Riverbank.

The small trees will be lit following the lighting of the large one.

“The festive, small town, Hallmark feeling of Christmas is what we’re aiming for,” Kjeldgaard shared, adding the City of Oakdale doesn’t own decorations, hence the need to spearhead the fundraising efforts.

“If you drove through last year, it wasn’t festive. There weren’t decorations, not compared to other towns. Driving through town you want to feel like it’s Christmas. That’s the goal,” she concluded.

For additional information on sponsoring a tree or holiday decor, as well as to learn about business holiday window decorating sponsored by Love Oakdale, visit; e-mail or call 209-607-9881.