On Dec. 5, the Radford Public Library will celebrate its 15th annual Tree Lighting Ceremony, a celebration that has been a community event of different incarnations since 1975.
The first tree lighting, presided over by Mayor Charles Charlton, was held outside the old recreation building, an outdoor tree was lit while musical selections were performed by the Radford High School Choir.
When the Radford Library was opened in 1980 at its current 30 W Main Street location, the tree lighting ceremonies continued to be held at the Recreation building for many years until the library took over the event in 2002 using the large Norway spruce tree on the library property as the focal holiday tree.
This special Norway spruce was planted in 1947 next to a war memorial plaque that had been dedicated in a ceremony on February 22, 1944. Using gold and silver stars to indicate those who had died or were missing, the plaque displayed an honor roll of community members serving in the armed forces at the time.
Congressman Clifton Woodrum was the principal speaker for the event, and John B. Spiers, a member of the House of Delegates from Radford, acted as master of ceremonies. The community-wide event was honored throughout Radford with patriotic decorations.
In support of the commemoration, businesses and schools closed and citizens were encouraged to display flags at their homes. A luncheon and parade preceded the unveiling ceremony of the war memorial.
In 1947, the Radford Garden Club presented the Community Christmas Tree to the City of Radford and the Harvey-Howe-Carper post of the American Legion honored World Wars I and II veterans. Accepted by Mayor Arthur Giesen and Commander W.A. Caldwell on behalf of the City and the Legion respectively, the tree was dedicated on April 10, 1947 while the Garden Club celebrated their 18th anniversary on the same eventful day.
The War Memorial was later removed from the library property and preserved in the American Legion building just across the street from the library. It covers the wall inside the entrance to the building. There were around 800 names at the unveiling and room for 1300. They moved the honor roll, but the tree remained.
In the late 1970s, when the library was being built, the tree was intentionally considered in the ongoing growth of the facility.
In early 2000, the late Dr. Linda Killen of Radford University donated copied scrapbooks of newspaper clippings to the Library. These clippings were collected over two decades, throughout 1940s and 1950s, by Dean M’Ledge Moffett of Radford College, and contained an article detailing the 1947 dedication of the Norway spruce.
This year the Radford Public Library will be commemorating the 70th anniversary of the Community Christmas Tree with a plaque so that everyone will readily remember the rich history of the City’s tree.
Please join the City in celebrating the holiday season with the Tree Lighting Ceremony and the Holiday Parade of Lights. While you’re in the Library, please check out the display, “Tracing a Tradition: The Development of the RPL Tree Lighting Ceremony” to learn more about the tree and memorial. Also visit the exhibit “Christmas Traditions Through the Years at the Glencoe Mansion” at the Glencoe Mansion Museum & Gallery beginning December 5 through January 6. Explore the history of Christmas traditions from Christmas of the early 1800s, to the Victorian Christmas, the Christmas of World War II, and a 1970s Christmas. Guests will also learn about Radford during these pivotal periods in its history
For more information contact The City of Radford 10 Robertson Street • Radford, Virginia 24141 • Phone (540) 731-3603 • www.radfordva.gov