By JEFF CLEMETSON
On Sunday, Dec. 5, community members from Allied Gardens set to work on a now 20-year tradition to bring a little festive spirit to the neighborhood by decorating the flyover bridge on Adobe Falls Road and a tree at the Waring Road triangle.
Although in years past the work of hanging the 735 feet of 2,250 individual lights over the bridge and decorating the tree at the triangle culminated in a holiday festival involving young students, this year as well as last year the event was cancelled due to pandemic precautions.
District 7 City Council representative Raul Campillo joined the lighting crew and praised the work of the Allied Gardens Grantville Community Council (AGGCC) for doing “so much for the community, from community cleanups to repainting the playgrounds next the rec center.”
“[Today] they’re trying to give a little cheer to folks who are driving on through, and also bringing a little attention to Allied Gardens,” he continued. “A lot of folks drive past here on the [I-8 freeway] or down Waring Road and don’t know too much about this community. But anyone who drives through it knows, there’s a lot of great families, great schools and stop in by Brothers Restaurant for a good breakfast, too.”
AGGCC member Marilynn Reed shared the history of the bridge and tree lighting. Twenty years ago, former District 7 City Council member Jim Madaffer invited AGGCC members to weigh in on the design when the Adobe Falls bridge was being considered, she said. Reed, who was AGGCC president at the time, attended a number of meetings.
“Then … at one of the meetings they asked, ‘Is there anything else we can do?’ and I said, ‘Yeah, what about making it such we can put lights,’” she said, adding that she was inspired by seeing lights on a bridge in North Park “that were great.”
So electrical outlets were added to the lamps along the bridge and crews like the one assembled on Dec. 5 have lit up the bridge with festive lights ever since. Funding for the lights come from personal donations, local businesses and AGGCC funds.
“It’s been a fun thing and I think a lot of people on the [AGGCC] over the years have enjoyed doing this,” Reed said.
Another tradition that people have enjoyed over the years are the lights and tree at the triangle, which usually coincides with the Holiday Festival. Reed said the festival was started by Betty Torre a former AGGCC member.
“That was her dream, to have the children of Allied Gardens involved in a musical festival,” Reed said.
Torre got with the music director of Lewis Middle School at the time and they organized a performance of the Lewis band and students from Foster and Marvin elementary schools sing songs.
“Betty decided to bring the children in a little more so we had a special tree lighting ceremony where we got children from Marvin and Foster — one boy and one girl we switch around each year — and the teachers pick one on the best students with good citizenship,” Reed said. “They come up and we have a special little device that looks like a present, but it’s hooked up to where both of them can touch a switch and the tree lights up.”
For a couple years, organizers tried to expand the event and invite the Marvin and Foster students and families, but it was too big to do safely at the busy intersection where the triangle is located.
“So we decided to keep it small,” Reed said. “We just have small group — the families of the children, members of our council come and [Lewis Middle musical director] Josh Prout will have some of his students come and play instruments and then we sing a few carols. We give gift certificates to the children who do the tree lighting as well as a certificate telling them how proud we are of them participating in our tree lighting.”
Reed, who is a teacher, said because COVID safety protocols are still in effect for young students, she felt it was best to not bring back the event until next year “when things are a lot better.”
— Reach editor Jeff Clemetson at firstname.lastname@example.org.