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Despite COVID Constraints, City Tree Lighting Continues
tree lights
A pair of city maintenance workers string lights on Riverbank’s Christmas Tree at the Plaza del Rio Park last Thursday. It took just a few hours to complete the work, but residents won’t be able to enjoy the fruits of that work until December. The official tree lighting will be held during the first weekend in December, forced into a ‘virtual’ event for the public because of the COVID distancing regulations. Ric McGinnis/The News

Preparations for the Christmas season in Riverbank are continuing, though COVID-19 constraints will limit just how public the events can be.

Last Thursday, city crews were stringing up Christmas lights on Riverbank’s tree, located in the Plaza del Rio Park in downtown, across from City Hall North.

The task took only a couple of hours, but the test of the lights, once plugged in, required a trip back up to the top of the tree. It was too hard to see from the ground, in the midmorning sunlight, whether the bulbs in the star lit up or not.

And, as in most recent years, city crews had to rent a larger bucket lift than what the city currently owns, to be able to reach the top. They said, when the Plaza tree first started being used, they could reach the top, and string their lights, with just a 10-foot ladder.

Also, while installing lights this go-round, they found that the star was too heavy for the thin tip of the tree, so the crew had to reinforce the trunk top with a 10-foot section of light pipe, so it could remain upright with the star on it.

There had been some concern in the community that the tree might not be lit this year, when the city announced the cancellation of the annual Christmas Parade over COVID concerns and social distancing.

For this reason, for the crowd that it attracts, the city did decide to continue with the tree lighting, but in ‘virtual’ mode, live-streamed on the internet for people who want to watch.

Workers said they expect the Mayor will be on hand for the lighting, as usual, and they predict that Santa will arrive in town, just in time to add his pixie dust to help the tree lights shine.