Crowds of people headed out on foot for a chilly evening walk to experience the “magic” of Christmas Tree Lane on Wednesday night.
“As a child it used to be in cars only, and that was in the 1950s or something like that,” said Rose Marie Stockton, who was out with a group of friends. “And now, it’s magical to walk in. I try to come every year because it’s so much more magical to see it on foot.”
Wednesday is one of two nights when Christmas Tree Lane opens just to foot traffic. The next walking night is Tuesday, Dec. 8. The remaining nights, through Dec. 25, will be open to cars.
The two-mile strip of Van Ness Avenue – between Shields to Shaw avenues – features 140 homes and more than 300 trees decorated with millions of twinkling lights and other displays.
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Fresno residents tell people not from the area they should take a look.
“I would insist” that friends and family visit Christmas Tree Lane if they’re in town, said Lynn Stenson. “It has a genuine, beautiful highlight. It’s unusual. This street walk like this, you don’t find it in every city.”
It’s magical to walk in. I try to come every year because it’s so much more magical to see it on foot.
Rose Marie Stockton, who was walking Christmas Tree Lane Wednesday night
Even people who aren’t originally from Fresno have found the charm of Christmas Tree Lane.
Stephanie Chavez and Abelardo Rodriguez Jr. moved to town for school. Last year the couple attended for the first time after friends’ recommendations. They liked it so much they came back again this year.
“We’re not from Fresno; we just go to Fresno State, but this makes us feel like part of the community,” Chavez said. “It’s very peaceful and romantic.”
As Fresno State nears its final exams, the pair thought the event would be a good diversion.
“How fun would it be to go on the first day. It’s something cool during the week to relieve stress from school,” Rodriguez said.
Christmas Tree Lane was started in 1920 when a single deodar cedar in front of one home was decorated in memory of a boy who died in an accident the year before.
The boy, William “Billy” Hobart Winning, was 14 when he died after falling into machinery operating in a pump house behind the home.
Other residents joined the Winnings’ annual tradition in the years that followed. By 1931, the spectacle became known as Christmas Tree Lane.
The lane went dark in 1941 due to wartime restrictions and again in 1973 for the energy crisis.
In its 93rd year, it has become one of the longest-running holiday events in the country. It’s a tradition that has been featured in Sunset Magazine, The Washington Post and on The Learning Channel. Sponsored by the Fig Garden Homeowners Association and supported by donations, it is expected to draw more than 100,000 visitors this year.