Christmas Isn't canceled in Christmastown!
By Rachel Hansen
All around us we see decorations limping into yards and windows as they defiantly defy the unwritten rule of waiting until after Thanksgiving. We can certainly expect come Nov 27, many neighborhoods will be visible from space. Families all over are desperate to celebrate the holidays – well, celebrate anything for that matter. The pandemic has put the kibosh on nearly everyone’s Christmas plans, canceling community events, visits to family, vacations and everything in between.
There’s one little timber town just off Hood Canal that is hanging onto holiday traditions despite the challenges of 2020.
Shelton is typically branded as a logging community. The main street, Railroad Avenue, was built wide to accommodate logging trucks heading to the mill. Yet trees weren’t just cut to make lumber, Shelton is also known as “Christmastown, USA – the Christmas Tree Capital of the World.” In 1918, mill manager, G.R. Kirk, received word from his brother-in-law in Texas requesting a train car full of wild-cut Douglas-fir trees for Christmas. Initially doubtful, Kirk sent the trees and was surprised to receive an order for two loads the next year. Instead he cut three carloads and headed to Los Angeles to sell them himself. He never went back to milling. Over the next seven decades local foresters honed their harvesting skills and, with the rich scent of fir pitch hanging in the air from November on, Shelton earned it’s Christmas Tree Capital title.
World Record Tree Maze
Last December Shelton took Christmas head on by celebrating their Christmastown distinction with a successful attempt at the Guinness World Record for “Most Lit Christmas Trees” in one location. The previous record was set by the Hallmark Channel in 2015 (559 trees). Shelton’s win was recorded December 7 during the annual Santa Claus parade with a total of 797 qualified trees. The trees were arranged in a lighted maze that families could explore along with holiday activities over “12 Days of Christmas.”
Festive Street Displays
How do you top a Guinness Record in the midst of a pandemic? This year the town has rallied to create a series of COVID-safe activities that will insure the Christmas spirit is still alive and well in Christmastown. Forced to cancel large gatherings like the annual parade and tree lighting ceremony, volunteers have created a series of unique activities.
On First Street you cannot miss the giant Christmas tree maze, a tribute to the 2019 Guinness World Record win. Open daily, families can wander the one-way maze free of charge. The maze is best viewed at night with thousands upon thousands of lights that make every festive family picture twinkle. Be sure to visit Santa’s Evergreen Forest and roast a marshmallow on the family fire pits or write a message on an oyster shell to hang on one of the giant nobles that have been “planted” in the forest. Weekends in December Christmastown will also feature an outdoor Christmas market, free crafting sessions, a gingerbread challenge and festive dinner wagon rides to view the lights. The wagon will feature two partitioned dining areas for up five guests and include music, hot chocolate, dinner served onboard from one of the downtown restaurants and a tour of the lights. Dress warmly, bring your own blanket or purchase a souvenir fleece online with your dinner tickets.
Travel down Railroad Avenue for a spectacular display of Christmas cheer. Retro decorations and lights line the shop fronts and, new this year, pass under live cedar garland and cafe lights swooping across the street as you spy the giant Christmas tree in Post Office Park. Nearby, don’t forget to get a family picture with the historic caboose and engine decked with lights and garland.
Pictures with the largest Santa in Washington can be found in Overlook Park, a scenic pull out overlooking a view of the Olympic Mountains and Oakland Bay.
The 32’ Santa Claus billboard is complete with a staircase at the back so children can peer through the doll’s head in the quintessential holiday selfie.
When you've had your fill of Christmas cheer, head to the mountains and enjoy some scenic and solitary exploration of waterfalls and waterways.
You may even get to experience a little snow!
The Christmas Tree Capital of the World!
There’s hardly a better Northwest family tradition than decorating and gathering around a tree that you brought home together from Hood Canal. Visit one of the many farms offering U-Cut or pick up a fresh cut tree from Hunter Farms or Toziers or head out into the Olympic National Forest to get your own for just $5!
Each permit is good for one U-cut tree, there are plenty to choose from and the selective picking allows other trees in the forest room for healthy growth. Permits for cutting Christmas trees in the Olympic National Forest are available in mid-November — and fourth-graders can get them free.
Christmastown and tree farm events and hours are subject to change without notice so always check before you go. All guests and volunteers are required to follow current COVID-19 guidelines, if you are feeling ill, please choose to visit us another time. Questions about lodging, things to do, shopping, crafting kits to take home to a cabin rental? Call the Christmastown concierge toll free at (866) 922-7469.
Check out www.explorehoodcanal.com/trees for info on U-Cut & Permits.