Starry Nights and Holiday Lights is a local tradition at the Lake of the Commons.

TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Elizabeth Erland, 9, and Claire, 7, visit with Santa Claus at the Tualatin Commons on Friday.To oohs, ahhs and applause, Tualatin's floating "holiday tree" and other lights all around the Lake of the Commons were switched on Friday evening, Dec. 1, at the community's annual "Starry Nights and Holiday Lights" celebration.

Thousands of people came out to the Commons on a crisp but mostly rain-free evening for the traditional start of the holiday season in Tualatin. Live music played from speakers arranged around the three white tents set up on the west side of the lake as they arrived, anticipating the main event.

TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - A remote-control boat glides across the Lake of the Commons in front of Tualatin's holiday tree of lights on Friday night.For Ryan McGraw and his 3-year-old daughter Henley, this Friday night was their first time at Starry Nights and Holiday Lights. The McGraws have lived in Tualatin for a few years, and they had previously visited the Commons and seen it all lit up for the holidays.

Ryan McGraw said they came back for Starry Nights and Holiday Lights after experiencing the bigger, zanier West Coast Giant Pumpkin Regatta in October — also held at the Tualatin Commons.

"It's neat having such a great community doing stuff around here," he said.

Just before 6 p.m., Tualatin City Councilor Frank Bubenik took the microphone. He counted down the seconds until the lights came on, to cheers and clapping from the families thronging the lake. Immediately afterward, to the delight of the children, Santa Claus arrived in full costume under police escort.

The Tualatin Police Department giving Santa a lift to Starry Nights and Holiday Lights is a local tradition. As Police Chief Bill Steele explained it Friday, the holidays are a busy time of year, and the police department doesn't want Santa to be late because of traffic.

Carols are contributed at Starry Nights and Holiday Lights by local school and preschool choirs. The Crimsonnaires, Tualatin High School's a capella choir, performed just before Santa's arrival and the lighting of the tree.

"I think this is one of the reasons why kids want to be in this group, is for the holiday season," said choir director Kim Kroeger.

TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - The Tualatin High School Crimsonnaires perform at Starry Nights and Holiday Lights on Friday evening.The Crimsonnaires will hold another free performance 7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 7, at the Tualatin Public Library. It's another opportunity to hear some of Tualatin High's best young singers' harmonies and clever arrangements of holiday standards.

Starry Nights and Holiday Lights continues until 8 p.m. Friday, with Santa meeting children under a tent. There are also holiday crafts and refreshments, with hot cocoa provided by Starbucks and cookies provided by New Seasons Market.

Starry Nights and Holiday Lights is held rain or shine every year, on the evening of the first Friday of December.

Just a few miles to the north, downtown Tigard also has a holiday tree-lighting the same evening.

The "tree" in Tualatin is comprised of strings of lights tethered to a pole, which floats on an artificial island in the middle of the manmade Lake of the Commons. Actual trees around the lake's edges are also festooned with lights during the holiday season.

The presenting sponsor for Starry Nights and Holiday Lights is Comcast.

TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Seven-year-old Erika Angel writes a letter to the troops at Starry Nights and Holiday Lights in Tualatin on Friday.

Editor's note: A previous version of this story misspelled the name of one of the subjects of a photo. Her name is Erika Angel. The story has been updated.

By Mark Miller
Assistant Editor, The Times
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