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Christmas steps into spotlight

November 26, 2012

Steve Joseph of High Country Lumber presents April Leeson of the Bishop Chamber of Commerce with a gift card for $200 to be used as first prize in the Chamber’s annual Home Decorating Contest set for Dec. 18. Judging takes place from 5-6 p.m. and winners will be announced the following day, with prizes also to be awarded to second- and third-place winners. The contest is free to enter. Photo courtesy Bishop Chamber of Commerce


With Thanksgiving left-overs wrapped up in the fridge, Inyo County residents can now turn their attention to a cornucopia of Christmas-related community events being held this weekend through Dec. 24. 

From Lone Pine to Bishop, local communities are planning everything from Christmas tree-lighting ceremonies to parades to Bishop’s popular Street of Lights event where residents are invited to enjoy live music while local businesses stay open late to accommodate holiday shoppers. 


With lights and wreaths beginning to adorn local homes and businesses, it is beginning to look a lot like Christmas in Bishop, and the local Chamber of Commerce is inviting everyone to participate in its annual Home and Business Decorating Contest.

Residents and business owners can compete for gift certificates, cash prizes, bragging rights and community pride in the annual event by hanging their Christmas lights and other decorations, which will be judged Tuesday, Dec. 18. 

Chamber leaders said the theme for Bishop’s Christmas festivities is “Hooked on Christmas,” combining the holiday spirit with the Eastern Sierra’s favorite past-time, fishing. 

Bishop Area Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau Events Coordinator April Leeson said members of the Chamber Board of Directors, Chamber of Commerce staff and members of the Bishop City Council will serve as judges of the Home and Business Decorating contest. 

“We really want to emphasise the $200 gift certificate donated by High Country Lumber for the Home Decorating Contest,” Leeson said, adding that High Country is stepping up to the plate to help raise awareness and interest in the event. 

Each year about 20 residents and businesses participate in the event. The Chamber is offering a prize of $75 for first place, $50 for second place and $25 for third place in the Business Decorating Contest. For the Home Decorating Contest, the first-place winner will receive the High Country gift certificate; second place will win $50 and third place will take home $25. 

Those who are planning to participate are asked to register by Sunday, Dec. 16 and have their decorations ready for judging by the 18th. 

Leeson said anyone planning to participate in the contest is encouraged to consider using the Hooked on Christmas theme when decorating. 

Leading by example, the Chamber hopes to have its holiday decorations up by Friday, Dec. 7 for the annual Bishop Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony scheduled for 5:30 p.m. at the front of the Bishop City Park. 

The Tree Lighting Ceremony will feature entertainment by the Bishop High School Choir, The Sweet Adelines and the Elm Street Band of Long Beach. 

Light holiday refreshments will be provided by the Salvation Army and Glass Onion Catering. 

Mr. and Mrs. Claus will also be in attendance, giving local youngsters the opportunity to relay their last-minute gift ideas to the North Pole.

The Chamber will be lighting up the Christmas tree, which is decorated each year by the City of Bishop’s park staff with the aid of Southern California Edison, then inviting those in attendance to head over to Main Street for the unique Street of Lights event. 

For the Street of Lights, The Elm Street Band will be performing on Academy Street while the Sweet Adelines and Bishop High School choirs carol up and down Main Street.

The main event for the Street of Lights will be the local businesses who are keeping their doors open late to accommodate holiday shoppers and Tree Lighting Ceremony revelers. 

To help encourage residents to shop locally, the Bishop Area Chamber of Commerce is providing a map of all participating businesses. Residents who stop in to local stores and have staff there stamp their maps will have an opportunity to be entered into a drawing for prizes donated by participating business owners at the event’s closing ceremonies at 9 p.m.

Between 60 and 80 businesses participate in the event each year, giving residents a variety of options if they are Christmas shopping. 

“We are seeing changes in the participation level, (business owners) are realizing there is a large opportunity here with this event and it’s really expanded in the last five years,” Leeson said. 

This year the Chamber is expanding the event to include businesses farther north on Main Street. 

Leeson said the Bishop Volunteer Fire Department will have fire pits set up from the south end of town up to Starbucks and Reagan’s Sporting Goods to the north. In the past, the Street of Lights event was held south of the City Park. 

The city is also preparing for its annual Christmas Parade, scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 8 on Main Street.

The Christmas Parade features dozens of floats built by residents and visitors. The event will end in the Bishop City Park with Santa and Mrs. Claus taking time to meet with local youngsters and hear what they want for Christmas. Altrusa International of the Eastern Sierra will also set up shop in the park after the parade to give local kids age-appropriate books as an early Christmas gift. 


This Sunday, Dec. 2, the Big Pine Civic Club will host its annual Christmas Tree Lighting Program beginning at 5 p.m., at the intersection of U.S. 395 and State Route 168 in Big Pine. 

Community members are encouraged to bring the family for holiday festivities that include Christmas music, refreshments and a visit from Ol’ Saint Nick himself.  

The Big Pine Volunteer Fire Department will once again be providing gift bags for the little ones. For more information, contact Rick Fields at (760) 938-2319.


Moving farther south, Independence residents will be gathering at 4 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 1 at the Eastern California Museum for their community’s annual tree-lighting ceremony. According to Eastern California Museum Director Jon Klusmire, holiday revelers will enjoy refreshments at the museum before caroling their way to Pioneer Memorial Methodist Church then over to Mary Austin Park for the lighting ceremony. From there, the group will head back to the museum to “warm up” and enjoy refreshments, Klusmire said. 

Santa Claus will also be making his traditional stop at the Inyo County Courthouse at 6 p.m. Christmas Eve. Santa is scheduled to land on the courthouse roof and make his way down to the lobby, where he will meet with local youngsters and distribute Christmas gifts to residents.


Residents in Lone Pine are preparing for the community’s first annual Christmas Electric Light Parade, the brainchild of 18-year Inyo resident and Alabama Hills Gang member Rosie Gilmour.

For the Electric Light Parade, scheduled for 4:30 p.m this Saturday, residents are invited to string Christmas lights on their cars, bikes, quads or just about anything else and head down the parade route between  Locust Avenue and Lakeview Drive.

While organizing the event, Gilmour said she has received help from Joseph’s Market, Merry-Go-Round Restaurant, the Chevron/ Lee’s Frontier, Fifth District Supervisor Richard Cervantes and Margaret Keener, who designed event fliers. 

The grand marshals will be the senior citizens residing at Southern Inyo Hospital’s Skilled Nursing Unit, Gilmour said.

Sign-ups are welcome up until 4 p.m. the day of the parade. Donations are also welcome and the $5 entry fee will be donated to the Geraldine Dodds family. For more information, call Gilmour at (916) 335-7553.

The Lone Pine Chamber of Commerce is working to organize its annual Christmas Parade, but details on that event were not available as of press time Monday, as organizers had run into a road block concerning permits to close Main Street in Lone Pine for the event. Chamber Director Kathleen New said details about the event will be made available as soon as they are finalized. 

No matter how plans for the Christmas Parade turn out, New said, everyone is invited to Lone Pine’s annual Dow Villa Christmas Party from 5-7 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 12 at the Dow Villa Motel.

The Chamber will also host its Courtyard Gallery Christmas Open House from  5-8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 14.According to New, the event is designed to “promote local artwork, jewelry, pictures, gourds, hangings, dream catchers,” New said. “It’s an opportunity to buy local and find a nice, locally-made gift instead of a gift from a big-box store.”

New said locally-made artwork is a great gift for former Inyo County residents, who always appreciate reminders of the Eastern Sierra. 

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