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Bellingham holiday festivities are off to an electric start with downtown tree lighting

Though smaller in size than previous years, this year's tree lighting was still filled to the brim with holiday cheer

The Bellingham Christmas Tree stands lit for the holiday season at the Depot Market Square in Bellingham, Wash. The tree lighting was held on Saturday, Dec. 4, and hosted local musicians and artists to help get people in the holiday spirit. // Photo by Ryan Scott

The downtown Bellingham Christmas tree was lit once again at the Depot Market Square on Saturday, Dec. 4, kicking off December and a swarm of festivities downtown.

With music, warm beverages, an art market and a plethora of local “Bellebrities,” the tree lighting was a fun and festive event to get Bellingham residents in the holiday spirit.

After a performance by Bellingahm band Analog Brass, the night's festivities began with a small speech from Mayor Seth Fleetwood, and the countdown was done by local drag queen Betty Desire.

“I am over-the-top excited about being able to participate in the lighting of the community Christmas tree,” Desire said.

Desire has performed in the city for over 25 years, but she said being a part of something as large and connected to the community as the tree lighting was a first.

“As far as I've been able to tell, it's the first time that any drag queen in the United States has been part of lighting a community's Christmas tree,” Desire said. “I am extremely proud of Bellingham. We are an amazing city and we are that way because of the people who live here.”

After not being able to put on the tree lighting ceremony in 2020, the Downtown Bellingham Partnership was excited to get back into the festive tradition.

“This year was still a little interesting and had its challenges because of ongoing [COVID-19] concerns,” said Lindsey Payne Johnstone, program director of the Downtown Bellingham Partnership. “We typically have a Santa and make-and-take craft tables, but we decided to continue scaling down the program a little bit.” 

Luckily, Woods Coffee and the Rebel Artists of Whatcom stepped in to help fill the space. Woods provided warm refreshments to help keep the December chill away, and the Rebel Artists hosted a pop-up art market.

“The city contact reached out and asked if we wanted to bring our vendors down here to be part of their tree lighting,” said Sarah Van Houten, director of the Rebel Artists of Whatcom. “Of course, we jumped on the chance because it's a great opportunity to be out among all of our community and get more eyes on all of our vendors.”

Bellingham Christmas Tree Lighting (SECOND IMAGE)

The Rebel Artists of Whatcom hosted a pop-up art market during the tree lighting at the Depot Market Square in Bellingham, Wash. on Dec. 4. // Photo by Ryan Scott

From hot sauce and soaps to paintings and custom jewelry, the variety of different goods offered at the pop-up market kept people on their toes and showed off the range of the Rebel Artists of Whatcom.

The smaller festival didn’t stop those who showed up from enjoying the night’s activities. The crowd still enthusiastically counted down the lighting of the tree, spilling out of the depot onto the sidewalk and beyond.

“It's definitely scaled down,” Johnstone said. “But it still did the job of bringing people together and bringing people into the city center to kick off December. It's really community driven —  everyone just shows up and donates their time and energy and makes it really sweet.”

The tree stands tall watching over the Depot Market Square and will remain there for all of December.

Ryan Scott

Ryan Scott is a third-year Visual Journalism major and city life reporter for The Western Front. When not reporting, Ryan enjoys photography, listening to music, driving, and cooking if he can find the time. You can contact him at 


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