ENCINITAS — It has been 25 years since Luis Ortiz approached Peter and John Danforth with a request to string lights on their stately 87-foot pine tree that sits near the corner of 4th and C streets in Downtown Encinitas.
Since then, the lighting of the tree — which became the city’s second heritage tree in 2011 — has become a major community event, drawing hundreds of merry makers, carolers and families to kick off holiday season in Encinitas.
To commemorate the 25th anniversary of the tree-lighting ceremony, the Encinitas Historical Society is hosting a competition to create the ornament that will top the three at this year’s ceremony on Dec. 6.
The “tree topper” design competition kicked off in late April and runs through June 30. Historical Society members are asking all creative minds young and old alike to submit their designs for this year’s tree topper. The winning design will be unveiled at the ceremony.
“We are hoping to see something that jumps out and embodies the spirit of this event and Encinitas at the same time,” said Jim Filanc, who organizes the tree lighting ceremony for the Historical Society.
Filanc said that there are only a couple of rules for the contest: the topper has to be something that can be built with little complication and it can’t be boring.
A panel of judges will select the best “buildable” design.
Filanc, who has been involved with the ceremony since 2014, said that the tree lighting holds a special place in the hearts of many Encinitas residents because it captures both the holiday spirit and that of the community.
In 2011, the city designated the pine tree, which the Danforths planted in 1952, as a heritage tree, a nod to the significance of the ceremony and the tree’s place in downtown.
The ceremony is 100% donation driven, with Ortiz at the heart of those efforts, Filanc said.
“He would basically go around the community kind of like the ‘Save the Clock Tower’ scene in ‘Back to the Future,’ asking people for donations, and people responded,” Filanc said. “And over the years, the event has grown in size.”
More than 500 people attended last year’s tree lighting, and Filanc said he believes that number could double with the contest having a web page and a social media presence.
“We are really looking forward to it,” Filanc said.
For more information on the competition or to download an entry form, visit www.encinitashistoricalcociety.org