Last Friday was an event we have missed the past two Christmases here in Portland, the lighting of the City’s Christmas tree. But this year, we went!
Pioneer Square, between 6th and Broadway and Morrison and Yamhill downtown, was the location of the elegant Portland Hotel from 1890 to 1951. President Theodore Roosevelt stayed there in 1903. It was the fanciest, tallest Hotel in town!
But by 1951 the hotel had become outdated and it was torn down, leaving a vacant lot used for that urban black hole, a Parking Lot. The city of Portland decided to create a public space and in 1984 the stair-stepped, brick covered City block opened and was quickly dubbed Portland’s Living Room.
It is home to food trucks, a Starbucks, and a tourist information office. But mostly it is where folks go to meet friends, people watch, have a cup of coffee or eat their lunch, or enjoy some free music.
For the ceremony Friday, we took the number 15 bus downtown. We had a quick, tasty dinner at Killer Burger before joining the flood of folks heading to Pioneer Square.
The still-dark tree, a 75 foot sustainably grown Douglas Fir, stood like a tall shadow in the middle of 25,000 of winter outfitted people. Spirits were high and we were packed in shoulder to shoulder.
Pink Martini, one of our favorite music groups, was on stage (which we could hear, but not see), leading the crowd in Christmas Carols.
At about 6:15, the countdown began and we all ooohed and ahhhed as the white lights twinkled and then colorful and Christmas-y lights came on, signaling the beginning of the season and the end of the ceremony.
The river of people reversed course and began flooding toward bus and train stops, still in good spirits but also chilly and foot sore.
This is one of the things I love about being in a big city, the chance to be part of Big groups of people doing things I love. Now, it is full speed to Christmas!