MARYSVILLE — Mary Swenson helped put together the first community-wide holiday celebration in Comeford Park.
She’s leading the parade Saturday for its 30th anniversary. She plans to bring her 7-year-old granddaughter, Aiyla Swenson.
Merrysville for the Holidays begins at 5 p.m., at the intersection of Fifth Street and State Avenue. Guests can expect a photo booth, craft show and live music before the parade starts at 6:30 p.m. The lights on the water tower are illuminated after.
Swenson worked at the city when the festival was introduced in 1989. The population is nearly five times the size it was then.
“To keep that small-town feel with this event I think is pretty incredible,” she said.
About 2,000 people came to the initial event, which is less than half of the crowd it has been drawing in recent years.
Santa Claus was at the first celebration, along with an 18-vehicle parade that started at Fred Meyer and ended at the park. The route is shorter now with double the number of parade participants, including marching bands.
Former Mayor Rita Matheny plugged in the blue and white lights on the water tower that first year. She was the first woman to serve as the city’s mayor. She died in 2006.
The landmark at Comeford Park has been decorated nearly the same way each holiday season. The tank ends up looking like a giant drum.
Matheny organized the event with Parks, Culture and Recreation Director Jim Ballew.
“Jim has really been the one that put it all together and has kept it going,” Swenson said.
Swenson was a city employee for more than three decades before she retired in 2010. She started as an administrative secretary, and worked to become the city administrator.
Swenson most looks forward to the children’s excitement each year as they wait to talk to Santa Claus. She also likes to watch the tower brighten up.
There weren’t many community events when her career started. She’s happy to see that this one is still growing.