Local Events

Tumwater Kicks off the Holidays with 19th Annual Christmas Tree Lighting Festival

Special holiday traditions take many forms. But one of the most beloved – gathering together around the Christmas tree – hasn’t changed much over the years. On Saturday, December 3, bring the family to Tumwater’s 19th annual Christmas Tree Lighting Festival. The event runs from 1 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. and is sure to ring in the holiday spirit for even the grinchiest of souls. With arts and crafts, performances by school choirs, food trucks and so much more, there’s something for everyone at this timeless, festive event.

Taryn Colborn of Olympia Federal Savings at HayDay Heritage Farm holding poinsettias

Tumwater’s Tree Lighting Festival is a Gift of Joy for the Community

The festival is traditionally held each year on the first Saturday in December. Located at Tumwater City Hall and Headquarters Fire Station on Israel Road SW, it’s co-hosted by the Tumwater Downtown Association and sponsored by Olympia Federal Savings (OlyFed), so there will be plenty of ways to find a little holiday cheer.

“The actual lighting of the tree takes place at the end of the event,” explains Marisa Worden, recreation marketing specialist for the City of Tumwater, “but there’s a lot more fun to be had before then. School choirs perform in the fire station bay throughout the event. Craft and ornament-making activities are popular with kiddos who attend. Hot cocoa, cider and treats are available from our sponsors and two food trucks will also be on site, Radio Fryer and Sweetlee’s Ice Cream.”

“And who can forget one of the biggest attractions, Santa Claus!” continues Worden. “Thanks to Santa Bob and the Foto-Bot, families can take photos with Santa at the tree lighting Festival and receive the printed photo at the event then have it texted to their phone or sent via email.”

Make time to take photos with Santa then pause for carols performed by the talented young musicians from Black Lake ElementaryEast Olympia ElementaryTumwater High SchoolPeter G. Schmidt Elementary and even Tumwater Hill’s marimbas.

Come One, Come All to Tumwater’s Winter Wonderland

Ryan Betz sitting in 222 Market Place in downtown Olympia Washington

Journeying to the actual North Pole isn’t cheap – and takes an awfully long time for fidgety youngsters –so this Christmas stick closer to home. Approximately 2,500 people visit the Tree Lighting Festival each year to mix, mingle and watch the 60-foot tree glow from the light of 6,000 LED lights.

This is Tumwater Parks and Recreation’s signature holiday event, explains Worden, but the Fire Department facilitates Santa Stops at local parks during the month of December. They deliver candy canes and collect donations of cash and non-perishable food for the Thurston County Food Bank. Find details and locations on the City’s website. The Food Bank will also have plenty of volunteers at the Tumwater Tree Lighting Festival collecting donations for those in need over the long, cold winter months.

Working Together to make Christmas Bright

Nicole Montoya in Yelm Washington

Santa may get all the limelight but it’s his elves who deserve the credit. This Festival relies on hardworking volunteers, city employees, organizers and sponsors. One such, Olympia Federal Savings, initially approached the city about supporting the annual Fourth of July Artesian Family Festival & Thunder Valley Fireworks Show.

“But over the years,” says Worden, “the City and OlyFed found that OlyFed’s impact and support best fit the tree lighting event. And since 2017, OlyFed has been the Main Sponsor for Tumwater’s Annual Christmas Tree Lighting Festival and an integral part of our success.”

“We love the holiday season at OlyFed because it provides an opportunity to reflect on the successes of the past year and share our deep and sincere gratitude with customers, community and professional partners who make our work both meaningful and joyful,” Ryan Betz, chief strategy and marketing officer said. “Supporting events like the Tumwater Tree Lighting Celebration, gives us the chance to connect with the people who support OlyFed and to say thank you in person. It also provides a way for us to bring our community together in a positive and fun way.”

Cheerful elves are also needed for this year’s Festival. If you’d like to help with set-up, clean-up, guiding folks around the Festival or assisting with Santa photos, register to volunteer for a three-hour shift.

Keep up to Date with Tumwater Events

Fill your calendar with special events hosted by the city all year round and keep up with breaking news through Facebook or Tumwater’s online mailing list. Have questions about anything on their social calendar or want to sponsor an activity yourself? Email [email protected] and someone from Worden’s team will get back to you right away.

Over the holidays, classic traditions abound. Gathering together, sharing a meal, festive decorations and enjoying the lights of the season are almost universal, no matter how you celebrate. Thanks to Tumwater’s Christmas Tree Lighting Festival, there’s one more way to spend time with the ones you love. It’s free, open to everyone and sure to bring back some of that warm, fuzzy childhood delight we all remember.