‘Keeping the Spirit of Yelm Alive’: City, Chamber Partner for Christmas Lights at Yelm City Park

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Christmas cheer came to Yelm City Park last Saturday night as the City of Yelm, the Yelm Chamber of Commerce and a small number of local businesses hosted the first night of the Yelm Lights at Night event. 

This year’s Christmas in the Park “marshals of merriment” Brad and Susie Carlson flipped the switch on a light-covered archway and tree light display that was put together by the city’s Public Works Department. Nearby, about a half-dozen light displays put up by local businesses flickered with holiday spirit. 

Every night from now until Dec. 31, Yelmites and their families can flock to the city park and stroll by the light displays put up by local businesses. 

Businesses that participated include Jesse Kellems Windermere, Bliss Experience, Uptown Lounge, Baines Famous Kettle Corn, Tim’s Pharmacy, Yelm Anytime Fitness and PTL Flooring. 

“I think this year it’s even more important than ever to have something for the community and something for people to look forward to and enjoy, and for people to get out while it’s still nice,” Chamber Executive Director Line Critchfield said, adding that it’s important to “spread the cheer and not the germs” this season. 

Critchfield said she has enough space to add an extra three displays for businesses that are still interested in getting involved. Those interested are encouraged to reach out to the chamber through email at director@yelmchamber.com. 

Joshua Crossman, owner of PTL Floorings, and his family erected a forest scene with reindeer and a manger on the park’s stage. He said he was able to create the trees by cutting wood pallets and used an estimated 425 feet of lights to bring the scene to life. 

“It’s a good time to celebrate the birth of Jesus … It’s a time of the year that people slow down a little and enjoy the peace,” he said, adding that his family’s goal is to “bring a little joy to people coming to see the lights.” 

While the year has felt remarkably somber at times due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic — with families celebrating apart, businesses struggling amid nine months of uncertainty and close to 3,000 Washingtonians who won’t be alive to celebrate this season — there was a recent loss in the Yelm community that was felt the first night of Lights at Night. 

The recent death of former Yelm Community Schools choir teacher Keith Skogsberg continued to shake the community. With the annual Christmas in the Park event cancelled this year, a gathering that consistently featured performances from school band and choir groups, Skogsberg’s absence in the community seemed more apparent.

“That guy was more than a teacher. He was a counselor,” said chamber President-elect Joseph Richardson, a 2001 Yelm High School graduate, who took choir classes from him. “He could tell when something wasn’t right.” 

Richardson, an associate pastor at Yelm Prairie Christian Center who also works at Steele Clayton State Farm, blessed the community shortly before the socially-distanced lighting of the tree. He also asked attendees to keep the Skogsberg family in their prayers. 

“Your heart just sinks,” he told the Nisqually Valley News. 

He and his wife were eating dinner on Thursday, Dec. 3, when he got a call from a friend about his death. 

“She could tell just by my face what had happened,” Richardson said. 

Mayor JW Foster said he wanted to give a shout out to the city Public Works Department for planning and putting together the light fixtures around the tree and tunnel. 

“Here we are, keeping the spirit of Yelm alive and bringing community together,” Foster said to a small number of cellphones streaming and recording the event. “Really what this is is a moment for Yelm to come together again.” 

Foster also recognized Skogsberg and his family. 

“(He was) a hero in our community who brought music to our lives in so many different ways, and here we are celebrating as only Yelm can do,” he said. 

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