Wednesday, December 16, 2015

2015 Island Lights Festival

Christmas tree lighting at the 2015 Island Lights Festival in Friday Harbor. Photo by Aaron Shepard.
Each year at Christmas, people of Friday Harbor come to watch the lighting of the trees at Memorial Park, accompanied by caroling and an appearance by Santa Claus. This year, kids and their caretakers gathered before the ceremony at the Whale Museum to make decorations; and afterwards, at the Brickworks, a community center, to make crafts with San Juan Island Parks & Recreation, enjoy refreshments provided by the San Juan Islands Agricultural Guild, meet characters from the Animal Protection Society, and have photos taken with Santa.

We lucked out this year, with the ceremony landing in a brief respite from a week of heavy rain and high wind. I was especially glad, because this was my first paid assignment from the San Juan Islands Journal, and I didn't want to let them down!

By the way -- in case you're wondering -- no, they don't string all those lights every year. The wires and LED lights are left in place year round but lit only for Christmas season. Don't ask me what happens if the tree grows!

Making ornaments at the Whale Museum. Photo by Aaron Shepard.

The Island Chordsmen Plus, led by Angel Michaels. Photo by Aaron Shepard.

Singers from the Friday Harbor Elementary School Choir. Photo by Aaron Shepard.

More singers from the Friday Harbor Elementary School Choir. Photo by Aaron Shepard.

Friday Harbor's Memorial Park alight for the Island Lights Festival. Photo by Aaron Shepard.

Islanders enjoy the Christmas lights at Memorial Park, as do travelers on the ferry docked behind. Photo by Aaron Shepard.

Noel sign over the restaurant Cask & Schooner, seen through the trees of Memorial Park. Photo by Aaron Shepard.

Sneaking up on the Island Chordsmen Plus. Photo by Aaron Shepard.

San Juan Island photographer extraordinaire Mark Gardner, handling the Santa photo duties at the Brickworks. Photo by Aaron Shepard.

Music making at the Brickworks by Mike Cohen & Co. Photo by Aaron Shepard.

The Animal Shelter's Top Cat makes friends with a young islander. Photo by Aaron Shepard.

Craft tables at the Brickworks, set up by Island Rec. Photo by Aaron Shepard.

Santa isn't just for kids. Photo by Aaron Shepard.

Who is that man? Photo by Aaron Shepard.


  1. Well, you guessed right: I was wondering about those fantastic tree lights. How many years does a string of LED bulbs last with all the high winds, rain and salt air? How are they tested and serviced before the holiday season? Might be an interesting photo and interview feature in itself for the newspaper.

    1. Hi Bruce. I don't have the answers to all your questions, but I can tell you the LED lights made their first appearance for Christmas 2012. It was only in the past year, though, that I noticed they weren't being taken down at all. And that made perfect sense to me, when I saw how much work had done into winding them around trunks and branches!