The Tree Lighting Committee brought together over 900 members of the Stevens community for the 4th Annual Holiday Tree Lighting on Tuesday.
The first Stevens Tree Lighting was held in 2014 by the current president of the Entertainment Committee and Tree Lighting President, Greg Klesaris. Klesaris said he founded the event because he loves the holiday season and found that there were no festivities on campus. Inspired by the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, Klesaris wanted to create an event on campus that would bring students together. After asking Student Life four times, Klesaris was allowed to organize the first tree lighting, with 10,000 lights and 150 attendees. The event was under Campus Life Committee for 2014 and 2015. In 2016, Klesaris coordinated the event under his two committees, Campus Life Committee and Entertainment Committee. Since then, Klesaris and the Student Government Association established the Tree Lighting Committee to run the event.
The second Tree Lighting’s slogan was “Bigger than Radio City” because the event had over 40,000 lights, more than the Radio City Music Hall display. In the Tree Lighting’s third year, there were 130,000 lights and over 700 people in attendance. This year’s Tree Lighting was the biggest one yet, with 160,000 lights.
The planning for this year’s ceremony began in August, and about 30 people helped throughout the process. Volunteers of the Tree Lighting Committee worked for 14 hours to put up the 160,000 lights around campus, in addition to working 12 hours each weekend for the past month, and staying up until 4:00 a.m. the night prior to the event in order to check last-minute details.
This year, the line to get into the event wrapped around Walker Gym, and the first 250 people who entered received a free pair of Tree Lighting Gloves. There were also 600 free Tree Lighting mugs, 600 ornaments, and hundreds of festive rubber ducks. In addition to free memorabilia, there were refreshments, a photo booth, and raffles for holiday gift bags and tickets for the Radio City Christmas Spectacular.
The event began with Greg Klesaris thanking Santa Claus for the nice weather and then introducing the Associate Dean of Students and Title IX Coordinator, Kristie Damell’s band. Throughout the night, Stevens President’s Ensemble, Floctaves, Quackappella, and Mariapia Riso performed various holiday songs.
The highlight of the night was the lighting of the tree. This is the first time that an actual Christmas tree was used for the event, which, as Klesaris joked, was “brought directly from the North Pole.” The tree was 16 feet tall and over 950 pounds. As the tree was lit, confetti was released and students cheered.
Members of the Tree Lighting Committee believe that the event can now be considered a Stevens tradition as the majority of students are well aware of the event and look forward to it. Klesaris’ favorite part of the event was “seeing everyone happy when the event started and people were rushing in.” Although this is Klesaris’ last year as a student, he plans to come back and help next year, just as three alumni returned this year to help.
The tree and campus lights will remain lit during the evenings until Dec. 22.