Annual Pickle Tree lighting brings Montecito community together
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On Tuesday November 27th, Westmont held the 17th annual Pickle Tree Lighting. Featuring cider, Santa, and singing, the event is a community affair drawing in alumni, community members, and students alike. Standing alone on Kerrwood Lawn, the Pickle Tree is a 150-foot-tall redwood tree which now, for the holiday season, is lit with vertical strands of light.
The event started with the Cold Springs School Choir singing Christmas carols, and many families with young children filled Kerrwood Lawn.
Second-year Westmont student Jared Huff said he teaches “the weekly youth group, 5th and 6th graders. A couple of them are performing, so it’s pretty fun.” Huff reflected on the event, saying, “I always love the cookie and cider, but the actual lighting of the tree is cool, too. It’s also fun to see all the families and people who don’t go [to Westmont].”
Sharon Brubaker, mother of a Westmont alumnus, has come from her home in Ventura for the past five years. When asked what her favorite part was, Brubaker responded, “Well, the lighting of the tree.” She held her infant granddaughter, who was attending the event for the first time.
Fourth-year Westmont student Zac Barnard who is participating in the Westmont Downtown program, said, “I’m here to represent the Santa Barbara Chamber of Commerce in the annual Pickle Tree event. [I’m] here to show support and keep an ongoing tradition alive in the community.”
The music continued with Ahh-Men and the Women of Westmont acapella groups. Ahh-Men sang Hark the Herald, Silent Night and O Come All Ye Faithful, dressed in festive holiday wear.
While cider and cookies were eaten, guests listened to the proceedings. “We’ve added a new feature, the entire nation has declared a national Pickle Tree day,” President Beebe joked. Then he presented a giant jar of pickles to Miguel Moreno, who won the Dining Commons’ pickle eating contest.
Throughout the event, a long line formed for the chance to take a picture with Santa Claus.
Steve Julio, a 1992 Westmont graduate and current professor of biology, gave the prestigious Pickle Address after being announced by the Global Leadership Center’s senator, Wynston Hamann and Van Kampen’s senator, Kevin Kinyon. The requirements of the address are to integrate the word “pickle” three times throughout the speech, to which the crowd yells “tree,” each time adding one more “tree” to the response. Julio’s address focused on “the simplicity of the tree” with “lights just draped from top to bottom in the easiest way possible,” which Julio explained was “a reminder to do the same among the craziness of the holiday season, keep it simple.”
In an interview with the Horizon, Julio said that “probably the most surprised reaction I got from my address afterward was several people asking me if one part of my talk was true. I mentioned that county records indicate that the Pickle Tree was planted in 1896, by the family who lived on the estate at the time to mark the grave of their beloved dog, Westmont, for whom our institution is named. I was surprised that several people would think someone would name a college after a family pet.”
After Julio’s address, the crowd counted down until the tree was lit. The whole crowd, young and old, alumni and students, faculty and local residents, all responded with cheers and applause at the sight of the lighted Pickle Tree.