Chamber Lights Holiday Tree

Chamber Lights Holiday Tree

Dec. 11 -- McLean’s downtown “holiday tree” at the traffic island where Chain Bridge and Old Chain Bridge roads intersect was lighted at 5 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 5.

“The branches were all full of snow. It was absolutely breathtaking,” said Barbara Soderquist of the McLean Chamber of Commerce, who coordinates the decoration of the tree every year. “People were driving past, honking, yelling at Santa Claus, and waving,” Soderquist said.

“We went ahead as scheduled,” said Soderquist. “We had told Santa that he didn’t have to bring the fire truck, but they said it wouldn’t be [Christmas] without it. They brought the truck.”

The McLean Volunteer Fire Department helps with the decorations every year, by providing a “cherry picker” to hang the ornaments and lights at the top of the tree. The volunteer firefighters also escort Santa to the island when it is time to light the tree.

“We had more people this year riding past and commenting while we decorating it,” Soderquist said.

The tree has 1,500 light bulbs, and usually, a number of them break during the process of untangling the lights. But not this year.

“We had several women volunteers [firefighters] who helped this year,” Soderquist said.

“I told them right up front the light bulbs cost 55 cents each. They hardly broke any at all. Virginia [Foley] and I give them credit that the losses were low. We think that is what made it better,” she said.

The Chamber of Commerce’s tree celebrates the holiday season, but has no star on top, to avoid association with religious holidays, Soderquist said.