The Lighting of the Old Oak Tree on Diablo Road, a decades-long tradition in downtown Danville, is set to return to its traditional format on Friday following a virtual version of festivities during last year's pandemic shutdowns.
"This is my first year at the chamber," said Judy Lloyd, CEO of the Danville Area Chamber of Commerce. "I said, 'How does this compare to other years? What do you think will happen?' And the overwhelming response I get is 'Oh, everyone's coming this year.'"
Lloyd said that she anticipates a turnout of between 3,000 and 4,000 at this year's event, which will mark the 45th anniversary of the town's annual tradition.
"Our community is very well-vaccinated, thanks to the great work of our fire district, so we feel safe, and we love to be out and about," Lloyd said. "I think of the tree lighting as one more way to get people out, and get people downtown shopping and enjoying."
The landmark, 400-year-old oak tree celebrated in the event represents the community's commitment to remembering its history, Lloyd said.
"If you think about how Danville is shaped, and the importance of downtown, the oak tree is kind of at the entrance," Lloyd said. "We've always thought of this as the symbol of our town."
Danville Mayor Renee Morgan shared this sentiment, and emphasized the importance of the tradition during the winter holidays in Danville.
"The heart of Danville is our old oak tree," Morgan said in an email. "The true beginning for the holiday season is the traditional lighting of the Danville old oak tree. We have definitely missed this tradition. Our oak tree has deep roots in our town -- literally."
Morgan and other local officials are set to share welcoming comments at the event, before welcoming Father Christmas and the Snow Angel, who traditionally host the festivities and lead a countdown to the tree lighting.
Lloyd said that although these are always highlights of the annual event, a major draw is the choir performers, who this year are from the Danville Girls' Choir, and groups at San Ramon Valley and Monte Vista high schools.
Following the tree lighting, local businesses will welcome revelers with hot chocolate and opportunities for holiday shopping.
Festivities are set to kick off at 5:15 p.m. and conclude by 8 p.m. Friday (Nov. 26) at the Old Oak Tree on Diablo Road off of Interstate Highway 680. Road closures are planned for 1-9 p.m. on adjacent downtown streets, according to a statement from the town.