The 26th-annual Spirit of Christmas event was held Saturday evening, Nov. 25, at the Arts Plaza.

OUTLOOK PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER KEIZUR - Gresham celebrated the 26th annual Spirit of Christmas event Saturday evening, Nov. 25. Friends and families came together to start the holiday season in downtown Gresham with a variety of festivities that all led up to the grand finale — the lighting of the city's 60-foot ponderosa pine.

OUTLOOK PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER KEIZUR - The Gresham High School Overtones were one of the groups that sang Christmas songs on the main stage during the Spirit of Christmas.The 26th-annual Spirit of Christmas event was held Saturday evening, Nov. 25. There was live music, photos with Santa and free treats from the sponsors in the Gresham Arts Plaza, 488 N.E. Third St. Many local businesses and organizations also hosted holiday events focused on fun activities for kids, from decorating cookies to writing letters to the North Pole.

OUTLOOK PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER KEIZUR - Santa visited Gresham to take photos with children and hear what they wanted for Christmas."Gresham may be the fourth largest city in Oregon, but we still celebrate that small-town feel at our annual tree lighting ceremony," said Gresham Mayor Shane Bemis. "It's this great community coming together to celebrate with our neighbors that is the heart of this special event."

OUTLOOK PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER KEIZUR - About 500 people made their way to downtown Gresham for the Spirit of Christmas on Saturday evening, Nov. 25.Santa and Mrs. Claus greeted the crowd at the Arts Plaza, and listened to all the children's holiday wish lists. They then helped Bemis lead the countdown to the tree lighting. In the plaza the Gresham Arthur Academy, SALT Pac, and the Gresham High School Overtones sang holiday music, while visitors enjoyed free cocoa, hot cider, hot dogs, candy canes and popcorn.

OUTLOOK PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER KEIZUR - Five-year-old Caleb shows off the ornament he made at Frenzi, which was one of the many businesses participating in the Spirit of Christmas.Despite the rain and winter weather, around 500 people were in the plaza to help count down and cheer as the tree was lit.

"Merry Christmas everyone," Bemis told the crowd.

OUTLOOK PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER KEIZUR - iCandy had a table where kids could decorate their own cookies during the Spirit of Christmas.Some of the businesses and groups which had open houses included Amiton Furniture, Accent on Attitude, Anderson Martial Arts, Blondies Pizza, Café Delirium, Feather Your Nest, Frenzi, Gresham Library, iCandy, KMO, Pediatric Therapy, SALT Academy, St. Henry's Church, SugarCubed Cakes, Tsuru Island, and USWC Taekwondo.

During the event, Gresham also collected canned goods to support the Fill-a-Bag food drive, which supports SnowCap Community Charities. Gresham's Biscuits Café announced it was donating a check for more than 52,000 pounds of food to the charity.

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