ENCINITAS — For nearly 30 years, the lighting of the Encinitas Heritage Tree has symbolized volunteerism and goodwill during the holiday season.
“When it’s lit up, you can see it from 40 miles out at sea,” said Jim Filanc, a longtime volunteer organizer for the event. “It’s like a beacon on the coastline.”
The 90-foot-tall Norfolk Island Pine was planted in 1952 near Moonlight Beach and designated as a Heritage Tree by the city of Encinitas in 2011. Every year, volunteers from a nearby construction company decorate and light the towering pine.
“For the first 28 years, the city got all the credit for doing it but didn’t lift a finger,” Filanc said. “And we didn’t brag about it, we just did it.”
Filanc said the tree lighting event has grown from a small informal gathering costing less than $2,500 to a major community celebration that brings people together and marks the season. This year, collaboration with the city will help the event grow even more.
The city pledged to contribute up to $10,000 in production costs plus services like trash and recycling, restrooms and publicity.
Filanc said the contribution will help the event keep up with its growing popularity and scope. This year, the group plans for a stage three times the size of the one used previously.
The group will also offer a printed program for the first time, which opens up the opportunity to sell advertising space to local businesses and raise even more funding.
In the past, small musical performances would take place underneath the tree. Filanc worked to expand this tradition by organizing carol singing and school choir performances.
Of the nine school choirs in the area, three will perform at this year’s tree lighting and the other six will perform the following day in the parade.
Proceeds from the event will go towards supporting music programs in the Encinitas Union School District.
This year’s Heritage Tree Lighting ceremony will be held at 5:30 p.m. on Dec. 2.