Other celebrations cancelled, but Lions still provide giant tree in Legacy Plaza
By Robert Stevens
GUNNISON—The Gunnison Valley Lions have a long running tradition of giving the Gunnison community a giant Christmas tree.
The city’s tree ceremony and light parade were cancelled this year due to COVID-19, but that didn’t stop the Lions from hoisting a tree in Legacy Plaza last weekend.
“This is just a great holiday tradition that we do every year,” Gunnison Mayor Lori Nay says. “The Lions have kept it going, and it’s so nice to have here in our Legacy Plaza.”
The Lions Club started the tradition in 2013, same year the clock tower was put in at the plaza. The first plaza tree was donated to the Lions by Barbara Bown. This year, the tree was donated by John and Laurie Jensen of Gunnison.
Jensen manages the Casino Star Theatre, and when he heard the Lions didn’t have a tree yet, he offered a large tree growing on his property.
“We were just trying to be good neighbors,” Jensen says.
The plaza tree tradition has roots in a similar tradition that goes back even further, says Kim Pickett, Lions Club member and owner of Gunnison Implement Company (GIC).
As far back as the 1950s, the Lions erected a tree every year on Main Street east of where the GIC building is located. “They put the tree up, sang songs and drank hot chocolate,” Pickett says. “That went on for a long time.”
He says the tradition slipped a little bit until the clock tower breathed new life into Main Street, and the club started providing a tree again in the new location.
In a normal year, the plaza would be the center of a tree lighting ceremony, with residents and Santa coming to see the lights turned on for the first time. The tree lighting would kick off the Gunnison City light parade.
“There is no Santa Claus this year, but the Lions still wanted to give the community the tree,” Nay says.