Annual tree lighting ceremony set for Dec. 1

The Girl Scouts, including Madelynn Richardson, right, sing carols at the annual tree lighting at the Base Chapel Annex Dec. 3. Team Kirtland members gathered for the tree lighting, followed by Santa visits, caroling, arts and crafts and refreshments. (Photo by Todd Berenger)

The Girl Scouts, including Madelynn Richardson, right, sing carols at last year's tree lighting at the Base Chapel Annex. Team Kirtland members will gather for the this year's tree lighting ceremony Dec. 1, followed by Santa visits, caroling, arts and crafts and refreshments. (Photo by Todd Berenger)

KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. --

With decorations, cookies and Santa, the annual Kirtland Air Force Base holiday tree lighting will brighten the holiday season next week.

The tree lighting is scheduled for 5-7 p.m. Thursday, starting at the big tree behind the Base Chapel, on Fourth Street. Anyone with base access is invited to attend. There’s no charge to participate or have refreshments.

“It’s the kick-off to the holidays,” said Larri-Lynn Torres of the Kirtland Youth Center, the staff of which is organizing the event.

At the tree lighting, Girl Scouts will carol, and a base leader will give a holiday message and turn on the tree lights, said center Recreation Specialist Lucy Burbach. Then, attendees can go inside to visit with Santa and munch on cookies, cocoa and other snacks.

Torres said the event would happen rain or shine, although it would move inside if the weather werebad enough.

To add a little extra holiday spirit, Youth Center Torch Club members are helping school-age children make costumes to dress as living holiday gifts while they guide Santa to his place, said Heather Hutzell, recreation specialist.

The tree-lighting tradition goes back more than a decade. As many as 250 people have come some years. The Youth Center staff is working with the chapel, security forces and base fire department to make it happen.

“It’s a warm, fun family event,” Torres said.

Anyone willing to volunteer to help set up or clean up is asked to call Burbach or Hutzell at 853-5437.