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Orland downtown a bit more jolly
Christmas in Orland 15 years ago had its virtues.
The town was lit with colors of red and green, shopkeepers did their best to entice customers with special sales and the community could always be counted on to make the holiday brighter for children.
What Orland didn't have was a welcome sign embracing visitors, outside benches for shoppers to rest their weary bones or a banner across Walker Street to advertise all the latest civic events.
Most of all, Orland had no town Christmas tree.
"It was just a very tired-looking downtown," said Olga Peterson, president of the Orland Business Improvement Association, which was formed around 1996 to improve the looks of the downtown.
So what if the tree the Improvement Association planted a few years ago started out looking like a Charlie Brown tree, "a bit scraggly and pathetic," according to Peterson, who along with Orland Mayor Wade Elliott lit the town's spruce tree on Fourth Street on Tuesday.
"The swan was an ugly duckling at one time," she said. "Now we have our beauty."
The tree lighting ceremony, just after dark, was brief but well attended by those who said listening to the children play in the band, singing Christmas carols and visiting with friends and family at a community event was why they eagerly stood arm in arm or hand in hand.
To them, Peterson was correct.
"This is Americana at its best," she had said.
Elliott, who was joined by Councilmen Bruce Roundy, Charles Gee and Dennis Hoffman as Santa Claus, said he didn't need to sell Orland to people who already knew what a great place it was to live and raise a family, but he did feel those responsible for the festivities should be praised for continuing a holiday tradition.
The Orland Business Improvement Association has been dedicated to making the downtown shopper friendly and attractive, especially during the holidays, for more than a decade, he said.
According to Peterson, the Improvement Association's projects have added about 75 trees to the downtown, flowers, bricks, greenery and irrigation.
Christmas decorations include the new wooden soldiers made available to the Improvement Association by Oscar Redes of Oscar's Signs, and new lights purchased for the town tree this year were hung by the Orland Public Works crew, under Jere Schmitke.
High School seniors from Orland's Community Connection put the finishing touches on the town by hanging wreaths on the tree cages.
All the decorations, lights, greenery and wreaths were purchased by the Improvement Association, Peterson said.
Tuesday's festivities included the music of C.K. Price Middle School band and caroling by the ranks of the Orland Girl Scouts, from kindergarten Daisies to the junior high Cadettes.
To the 9-year-olds in the choir, being asked for the first time to perform at this year's celebration was indeed an honor.
"I love Christmas songs," said Lauren O'Brien. "Singing brings me a lot of joy and it's great community service."
Danielle Walkup said she was excited about doing something new for Orland and Samantha Westover's nerves soon drifted toward pleasure as they started to sing.
But it was Kattie Bailey who said the event was all about binding the community together.
"I like being with all the other Girl Scouts," she added. "That is what makes it fun."
Although the crowd quickly dispersed shortly after the ceremony, some of the revelers visited the few businesses that stayed open for the occasion.
Edward Jones Investments hosted an open house and served refreshments, and Santa and Mrs. Claus handed out candy canes to the children.
The community Christmas event helps kick off a few other holiday activities in the area, including the Avenue of Lights at the Glenn County Fairgrounds later this month.