CANNON BEACH — During a notoriously busy time of year, Lori and Kathy Strombeck come to Cannon Beach as a way to start the holiday season in a more “peaceful and gentle” way.
“Coming here is a gift to each other — rather than buying fancy sweaters or something,” Lori said.
The two sisters traveled from Corvallis and Eugene to attend the Cannon Beach Library Holiday Tea and lamplighting ceremony Saturday. Sitting by the library’s fireplace with tea in one hand and homemade cookies in the other, Lori said they have been attending the town’s holiday rituals for the past four years as way to start off a chaotic month of shopping and event planning.
“We like starting the season in a peaceful way. When the holidays start getting crazy and expensive, we go back to thinking about this day — the tea, the lamplighting, the music — and remember what Christmas is all about,” Lori said.
The Strombecks were among hundreds who came Saturday to celebrate the 44th annual lamplighting ceremony in Sandpiper Square.
“It makes me teary just from the beginning to see Sandpiper Square fill up with so many people like this,” said Margo Dueber, the organizer and emcee of the event. “We come together as family, friends and a community. It feels just kind of yummy, doesn’t it?”
The lamplighting tradition began in 1973 amid an oil crisis that drove down the number of vacationers who were coming to visit Cannon Beach. To get back visitors, the town banded together to create a holiday celebration with a Charles Dickens theme. The Coaster Theatre put on productions of “A Christmas Carol” and shop owners dressed in Victorian style, Dueber said.
Since then, many of the traditions remain and others have evolved. Bill Steidel and Paul Dueber again performed the town’s official song “Christmas in Our Hometown,” which Steidel composed for the Dueber family when Paul Dueber Sr. died on Christmas Day 1967. For the first time, students from the Cannon Beach Academy sang highlights from Christmas carols. The lamp is still lit the same way Jay Schwehr, a Cannon Beach local, did for 40 years before falling ill.
The lamplighting duty since has been passed on to selected Cannon Beach grade schoolers. But this year, the task was given to Ethan Burnett, the oldest grandson of Tom Drumheller, a local hospitality leader who died in September.
“He was also caring, always helping, always reaching out to the community during the holidays and every other time of year,” Dueber said at the lamplighting. “It was extremely important to him for people to feel loved and appreciated.”
The evening ended with kids lining up to see Santa, who made a surprise visit in a blaring fire truck to Sandpiper Square to hand out bags of treats.