Mar 24, 2019

Students light up Christmas Tree Lane


For 91 years Van Ness Boulevard has been decorated with thousands of lights and other decorations to create Christmas Tree Lane. Photo Rachel Taylor

For the past 91 years, a two-mile stretch of Van Ness Boulevard that becomes Christmas Tree Lane brings the holiday spirit to Fresno, and Fresno State students helped make it happen this year.

What started as a single tree lit up in remembrance of a child who passed away in the 1920s became a neighborhood tradition, and as Remington Alexander, a senior civil engineering student, said, “The rest is history.”

Alexander grew up on Van Ness Boulevard and with the holiday tradition that spans nearly 140 homes and 300 trees.

“When I was young, I thought every street was like this,” Alexander said.

His experience became more hands-on about 11 years ago when he started volunteering his time to light up the lane.

Setup usually begins in mid-October, and nearly a dozen volunteers come together with Alexander and his father Dean, who is known as the lane coordinator. Volunteers are given various tasks that include setting up the lights and decorations, as well as collecting donations for the lane.

The amount of time spent decorating depends on the house and what decorations are being used, Alexander said.

“The setup can range from two weeks to a day,” he explained. “The Christmas Tree Lane overhang lights over Van Ness Boulevard probably take the longest time setting up.”

Often, Alexander recruits friends to join in.

Brock Lambert-Martinez, a junior majoring in kinesiology, is one of those friends.

“As a child, looking up to all of the tall trees filled with lights and all of the people who were there to share the beautiful scenery was amazing,” Lambert-Martinez said.

What stood out to Lambert-Martinez was the big clock tower at the end of the lane that lights it up.  He said it was always a sign that Christmas is near.

For 11 years, he has helped prepare the street for the more than 100,000 people.

“It was a chance for me to give back to the community, and I always enjoy putting in the work to see children’s faces really light up,” Lambert-Martinez said.

The two students agree that the most tedious part of setting up the lane is the lights.

“A light strand that is not working can be very frustrating,” Alexander said.

In a few years, Fresno will be celebrating a century of holiday spirit on the lane, and there are high hopes for what that will bring.

“I really hope that the community continues to appreciate what is taking place each year and understand just how special Christmas Tree Lane is,” Lambert-Martinez said.

Visitors still have the opportunity to walk the lane on the second walk night, which will be Wednesday. Volunteers will be stationed along the lane to collect donations to help cover the costs of running the millions of lights.

Visitors can access Christmas Tree Lane via Shields Avenue. The lane is open from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. During these hours, the lane is one-way only.

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