Tree will light the way in Dells for holidays

Once in place, a holiday tree will be widely visible across the downtown Wisconsin Dells area, according to Mark Sweet of the Downtown Dells Committee.

ED LEGGE/Dells Events

Twin tree lighting ceremonies will kick off the holiday season in downtown Wisconsin Dells the first weekend of December.

An outdoor tree lighting followed by a holiday choral performance inside the one-year-old St. Cecilia Catholic Church on Oak Street downtown will take place the evening of Dec. 1. Another outdoor tree lighting — this one on the 500 block of Broadway — will take place the evening of Dec. 2.

The tree lighting ceremonies and ancillary events are open to the public, according to their respective organizers — St. Cecilia Catholic Church and the Downtown Dells Committee.

“In one weekend, you will have two opportunities to really enjoy launching the holiday season and preparing for Christmas,” said Dells Business Improvement District Chairwoman and St. Cecilia parishioner Kelli Trumble.

The Dec. 1 event takes place at 6:30 p.m., and the Dec. 2 event takes place at 5 p.m.

St. Cecelia’s expansive new church building will provide a prime location for listening to a holiday concert, Trumble said, and that event could be a portent of more such gatherings to come.

“This is one of the many visions for St. Cecilia in the community,” Trumble said. “There will be more cultural events there, this is just the start of that.”

The latter event offers the first external evidence of the recent revival of the Downtown Dells Committee, which this summer sought new members and fresh ideas, according to long-time committee chairman Mark Sweet.

Sweet announced at a recent BID meeting the 13-year-old committee’s plan to light a 22-foot artificial tree, to the delight of Trumble and their BID colleagues.

The Downtown Committee’s tree-lighting ceremony will take place at the vacant property at the intersection’s southeast corner next to Homespun Heart, with refreshments and a performance with the Wisconsin Dells High School Chorus, Sweet reported.

A downtown-area Santa Fun Run will precede the tree lighting ceremony, Sweet said, and Santa Clause himself is expected to appear that day.

“Our intent is to keep the tree lit through about the middle part of January,” Sweet said following the Nov. 1 meeting of the Dells Business Improvement District, of which he is member.

At least a few downtown businesses plan to hold open house events either before or after the tree lighting, Sweet said, and should the event and the tree’s season-long presence provide the hoped-for boost for the downtown area, it could be expanded in the future. Downtown businesses “will be encouraged” to participate, he said.

“We’d like it to generate more traffic in stores during a period of time when we don’t usually get as much traffic,” he said. “I don’t know if this necessarily will happen in this first year, but we’ll kind of use it as a building block.”

Even the tree itself could increase in size, he said.

“The nice thing about this tree is we can grow it, even though it’s artificial,” Sweet said. “If funding is available, we can add to it and it can get as high as 50 feet.”

The Santa Fun Run also could return in future seasons, even if its initial participation is small, and participants will be encouraged to wear their finest holiday garb for the run, Sweet said.

“Even if there’s only 20 runners, if they are all dressed up in Christmas outfits, it could be really fun,” he said.

The Downtown Dells Committee will fund this year’s event, with some financial assistance from the city, he said.

A late-August call for new members from Sweet, the committee’s long-time chairman, has generated renewed participation and interest in generating downtown activities since then, Sweet said.

“We’ve met at least a half a dozen times now,” he said. “It’s varied, and I don’t know if everyone will participate every time, but we have a solid group of between six and eight, and we want a good working group.”

Follow Ed Legge on Twitter @DellsEd. Contact him at 608-432-6591.