Solvang’s Annual Christmas Tree Burn made a comeback Friday after being canceled last year due to the pandemic.
Hundreds of trees were brought in by local residents including Kathy Shriver, who has been participating in the event since the 1990s.
“We name them every year. That was Douglas Fairbanks,” Shriver said of the tree she dropped off Friday.
It is a pile of trees full of holiday memories.
“Bye, bye, we enjoyed you,” Shriver said as her tree was tossed onto the pile.
Waste Management Crews made multiple drop-offs with trees from all around the Santa Ynez Valley.
A U-haul packed up with more than 40 trees also made its way to the stack.
“From the local neighborhood and then we had a tree sale, so we had some leftovers, so we’re just adding to the burn pile,” explained Tim, who dropped off trees for the first time.
All ornaments, stands and lights had to be removed beforehand.
“You can recycle it and put it in the trash, but this is another event to get the family together,” said Albert Cabanting, who also dropped off a Christmas tree.
“It’s amazing how hot and bright it gets. It’ll light up this whole area,” recalled Lana Gundrey, who participates in the tree burn along with the Boy Scouts of America.
While seeing trees on fire is quite the show, there is a big lesson behind this event organized by the City of Solvang and assisted by Santa Barbara County Fire.
“Just make sure you keep your tree watered, make sure you use good Christmas lights […], make sure you keep it away from a heat source," recommended Mike Eliason, Santa Barbara County Fire’s Public Information Officer.
Last year, the burn was canceled because of the pandemic, so this will be the 31st year of the event.
“I think it is a good wrap-up of the Julefest celebration,” said Jenny McClurg, Solvang City’s Recreation Supervisor.
It might even be older than 31 years.
“At the lot right across the street from our city hall that was 1968, people brought in their Christmas trees from all over town,” recalled Dean Klitgaard, Solvang Visitor Center Ambassador.
According to the Solvang Visitor Center, initial events had a religious connection.
“Pastor Carlo Petersen always told us about the three kings or three wise men, so he tied in with the day of Epiphany, so it became the last religious holiday of our Julefest or Christmas season,” Klitgaard added.
Nowadays, even the Boy Scouts of America get to participate.
“The Boy Scouts of America can retire the flag, and we do that properly with a ceremony and burning them, so we’ll have one representative flag and we put in some other flags in the pile, and they’ll be burned tonight,” Gundrey explained.
Food trucks were at the scene allowing for attendees to enjoy a meal or warm drink while watching the fire spectacle.