Click here to see more photos from the tree burning.
Many veterans of the traditional send-off for the bare holiday trees elected to stand farther back in the rows crowded with hundreds of spectators and tree donors from throughout the Central Coast.
The 6 p.m. start came and went while live rock ‘n’ roll music — provided by local Wheelhouse — played in the background and attendees paid for more light-up souvenirs, popcorn and hot chocolate.
The crowd seemed well aware they were about to witness one of the largest fire safety demonstrations and community gatherings around, courtesy of the City of Solvang Parks & Recreation Department and supervised by the Santa Barbara County Fire Department.
After a couple of demonstrations lighting one tree at a time, spectators began to shout out, “Light it up, baby!” and got their cameras ready.
“This is just one Christmas tree, folks,” fire Capt. Gordon O’Neill said. “Don’t light it in your house.”
A countdown from 10 later, and the pile quickly blazed to a hot and glowing fire too big for any campfire ring.
Rookies and veterans alike took several collective steps back as the lights grew brighter and the heat got warmer.
“Please refrain from roasting marshmallows,” O’Neill said.
As children ran circles near the fire and adults commented on the surprisingly high level of heat, lifelong Solvang resident Richard Stewart sat a safe distance away in a lawn chair.
Stewart said he has seen so many tree burns that he can’t recall the number, although he does recall one year the city didn’t provide the burn.
“It’s always fun,” said Stewart, who watched with his grandchildren Ginger, 7, and Gage Grizzanti, 3, as the trees lit up the star-filled sky. “It’s usually bigger. It used to be everyone brought one. It’s just a nice tradition. The kids always love it.”
Stewart said he couldn’t bring his tree to burn because it’s artificial.
Ginger, who was visiting from Orcutt, said she had fun at her first-ever tree burn. She got only as close as the second row to the blaze before retreating to the cooler air.
“I’m a fan,” she said, noting that her own family’s tree was still safe and decorated at home.