Story & Photography by Billie Jo O’Bryant
It all started in 1996 in the town of Astoria, Oregon by Tim and Melba O’Bryant, decorating the town with Christmas decorations, lights and lots of love, a dream Tim had for several years finally coming to life.
Tim found the old bells and lanterns that once adorned downtown Astoria back in the 50’s and 60’s, at a garage sale in Hammond. He purchased them at a reduced price with the understanding that he would put them up again during the holidays. Since then, a grassroots group of volunteers has grown the display into what it is today!
Garland, ornaments, lighted trees and shrubs, nutcrackers and of course Santa and his team of reindeer. This could not have been done without the generous support of donors and volunteers. Astoria Christmas Club is a nonprofit 501 C-3 sub-committee under the ADHDA and maintain their own finances through donations. They are said to be the only private Christmas decorating group that is known around to be funded by generous donors and not funded by individual towns or Chambers.
Tim and Richard Stineman team up before to prep all the decorations that sometimes can take a month to prepare for the rest of the volunteers for the day of decorating.
The Astoria Christmas Club is made up of 40 to 50 volunteers that volunteer their time decorating the town the Saturday before Thanksgiving. The Saturday after Thanksgiving a lighting ceremony will take place downtown Astoria on the corner of Liberty Theater where the crowd counts down and Mr Christmas (Tim O’Bryant) turns the lights on!
For information https://www.facebook.com/events/2410915949141119
The Astoria Christmas Club stores the large Christmas decorations in a space donated throughout the years by Essential Mortgage. Kent Birdeno’s group the Ladder Monkeys are responsible for making it sparkle throughout the town by lighting up the trees and bushes. Kent also does quite a bit of PR work and fundraising.
The garland you see down Commercial Street wouldn’t be possible without the bucket trucks and ground crew provided by Pacific Power and Light, Wadsworth and City of Astoria. The Astoria Fire Department is responsible for decorating the poles with garland, lanterns and bells. The Moose creates a winter wonderland on the island across from Roby’s. The Knights of Columbus put up the reason for the season, the Nativity, across from McDonalds.
There are so many individuals that also volunteer their time to decorating the Saturday before Thanksgiving. This is when the Rusty Cup, Kristy Cross donates coffee and drinks to keep all the volunteers going.
As the saying goes, “It takes a village” and this village is filled with family, traditions and love!