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‘Tree of Light’ Ready For The Holidays

The 110 ft. Norfolk Island Pine Tree also known as the Tree of Light on Chapala and Carrillo Streets is now all lit up. Since the 1920s, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 413 has made sure the tallest tree in downtown Santa Barbara is ready for the holidays with lights and shining star on top.

Decorating the tree is a long standing tradition, and for one family, it spans three generations. “Ever since I came here in ’58 I’ve been a part of this in some way or another,” said Bob Russell, retired IBEW member.

“I’ve been doing it for 46 years. Since I was 10,” said Peter Ryan. “Pretty much since I was 5 years old I’ve been coming down and helping as a ground crew,” said Matt Russell.

For the past 23 years, Matt Russell has taken on more of the decorating, by free climbing the 110 ft. tall tree all the way to the top with a partner, then pulling up the 16 strings of lights. “I really enjoy it. I think it’s awesome to give something back to the city. Our local does a lot I know for the community but it’s something I can do and I enjoy doing,” he said.

Matt’s 10-year-old nephew Samuel has been helping for three years. “I have to turn a knob about a half inch then it all lights up,” said Samuel. This year, the hundreds of lights that surround the tree are new. The group spent around $2,500 for LED decorations. “We’re using maybe 15 percent of the energy we were using prior to changing from incandescent,” explained Chuck Huddleston, IBEW.

But it’s not just the twinkling lights that brighten up the city, the union members and retirees raised $3,000 for the Unity Shoppe. “I think it’s an important part of this community, important part of the tradition of Christmas and this tree and the retired electricians union, very, very special for all of Santa Barbara,” said Unity Shoppe Executive Director Tom Reed.

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