Winterfest activities unite community
Vashon Island has many annual traditions that bring the community together. One of these traditions is WinterFest, more commonly known as the tree lighting. Located downtown, the event is held by the Chamber of Commerce each year in early December, with the help of many island merchants.
Chamber of Commerce office and events manager Jennifer Potter has been involved with the Chamber for the past 16 years.
“There are many holiday hallmarks celebrated during the event,” Potter said. “[These include] a Santa parade, community caroling, dance demonstrations from the Nutcracker performers and others, Santa & Mrs. Claus meet & greet, and sharing a hot cocoa outside with fellow islanders.”
Since the tree lighting has been a long standing tradition on Vashon Island and it is put on nearly flawlessly by various community members each year, it’s easy to take for granted the huge amount of effort that goes into the set up.
“There’s a fair amount of not-so-glamorous paperwork that goes into an event like this, such as permits for the road closures, barricade enforcement while our friends and family are enjoying the traffic-free streets, as well as insurance required to keep everybody safe.” Potter said. “Then, it’s all about imagining what activities will draw the community together, such as the ornament making, mulled wine, cocoa, music, a festive parade with Santa himself, and other winter wonderland characters roving around … to delight those at WinterFest.”
Lots of the work that goes into such a big event comes from local businesses on the island who are willing to volunteer their time to make sure the tree lighting runs smoothly.
“The Vashon business owners play a huge part in community events,” Potter said. “They’re very generous about volunteering their time and skills to make it a lovely traditional event for all.”
2019’s WinterFest was a bit different than previous years in terms of community involvement.
“This year, [we encouraged] the community to decorate the tree with something from home, or
something made at the many ornament craft stations during the event,” Potter said.
By allowing each individual to contribute to the tree itself, the Chamber of Commerce hopes to achieve its goal of unifying the Vashon community.
“This event is really about bringing the community together for a very traditional activity during this season: the lighting of the tree.”