The Christmas Tree Lane Walk, Jingle Bell Run for Toys and Swedefest 16
This time of year, the hustle and bustle of the holidays can quickly take over and the season often flies by before you know it. In effort to make sure you don’t miss some really fun, family-friendly events coming up within the next two weeks, I wanted to share with you the details on three of my favorite local December activities. Mark your calendars and join in on the fun!
Christmas Tree Lane – Walk Nights (Saturday, 12/3 and Tuesday, 12/13)
Making the trek down Christmas Tree Lane is a beloved Fresno tradition for many of us, and an experience not to be missed by new Fresnans. The 2-mile stretch of Van Ness Avenue, which runs between Shields and Shaw Avenues 140 decorated homes and over 300 lit giant evergreens that form a canopy of lights along the entire lane. These trees tower above the lane and require cranes and the blood sweat and tears of professional laborer Shawn Caglia, who spends three months preparing the lane to awe children and adults alike come Christmas time. 2016 is the Lane’s 94th year operating (there were two years the lane was dark – 1941 due to war time restrictions and 1973 due to an energy crisis), and the tradition began in honor of a young child who passed too soon. A tree was lit in her honor, and the residents began to follow suit.
There are two nights in which traffic is closed to vehicles and pedestrians as well as stroller and wagon riders have the freedom to enjoy the lane at a leisurely pace (with just a few thousand others ;-)). Yes, there are crowds, so expect that. This year’s walking nights are this coming Saturday, and then Tuesday, the 13th.
Some tips if you decide to join in on the walk:
- It’s fairly dark out. Don’t focus on your looks, focus on comfortable shoes!
- You can ride a Tree Fresno shuttle from Figarden Village to the start of the lane if you don’t want to walk all the way down the Lane, then all the way back. For shuttle details, call 559-221-5556.
- If you’re thinking of grabbing a Starbucks drink to warm your hands and tummy while you walk, consider getting it at a Starbucks that you’ll pass before you reach Figarden Village. Crowds cause long lines and waits (though this year, they were very proactive and had a hot chocolate table outside the store to alleviate some of the wait, which was great!)
- We find it easiest to park near the banks just North of Figarden Village
- Lots of people (and their dogs!) wear festive or lit accessories and clothing – if that’s your thing, go for it!
- There are porta-potties along the lane, but not many and lines can be long. Have your littles use the restroom before you start your walk
- Dress in layers – it’s often not as cold in Fresno as we expect at night, and when you’re walking for a few miles, you may get warm
- Bring some cash. Christmas Tree Lane is 100% supported by the donations received, so please give what you are able. There are boxes to donate in along the walk.
- Expect to see Santa and, kids can take a picture with them for free! (Use your own camera/cell phone)
The Jingle Bell Run for Toys (Saturday, Dec. 10th)
The Jingle Bell Run/Walk is held mid-December on Christmas Tree Lane (this year it will be this Saturday, December 10th) in the morning. You don’t get the full benefit of all the lights, but the decor is still festive in broad daylight and you’ll also enjoy cookies, cocoa and even SNOW at the finish line, so it’s definitely a good time!
The run is a 5k chipped run, and the walk is a 2 mile loop down Christmas Tree Lane with a single starting line located near the Shaw end of Van Ness. (Once again, parking near Figarden Village is advisable.) The registration fee is $40 and Toys for Tots will also be on site collecting new, unwrapped toys for children in need in exchange for a Santa hat. Registered runners and walkers also receive a holiday sweatshirt to sport along with their festive running accessories (most people seem to don Santa hats, striped tall socks, antlers or red and green tutus). To register online visit the Jingle Bell Run site here.
Swedefest 16 (Saturday, December 10th)
Swedefest is a really fun, free screening event for short (4 minutes or less) films made by every day, fun-loving people with access to a video camera, basic editing software, and a bit of extra time to gather a cast and crew to create their very own sweded film.
By definition, swedes are low-budget, summarized recreations of popular Hollywood movies or t.v. shows, according to Swedefest founders Bryan Harley and Roque Rodriguez. Swedes are supposed to be campy and fun, featuring things like cardboard sets, condiments in place of slime for special effects and toys for props.
If you’d like to make a swede for the festival, please drop the Swedefest team a quick email and they’ll provide you with instructions on submission. (firstname.lastname@example.org) You definitely will want to get on it asap though, because all submissions must be turned in no later than 11:59pm December 4th.
Don’t have enough free time (or spare cardboard) to make a swede in time for this year’s event? No worries – you can (and should!) still come and watch. Swedefest 16 will be held on Saturday, December 10th at 5pm at the historic Tower Theater. Doors open at 4:30pm, snacks and beverages will be available for purchase (admission is free) and usually the theater does fill up, so I do recommend arriving at least a few minutes before 5. Typically, the event runs about 90 minutes, so feel free to bring the whole family, as it won’t get too late and often, many swedes feature students, too. Who knows, your tween might get inspired to create a swede, then go on to a career in film, become the next Spielberg and help you retire to a beautiful island.
For inspiration or just pure entertainment, check out the online library of past swedes here.