Each holiday season, Lincoln Center transforms from a shopping center into Stockton’s winter wonderland. Several members of our community come together to make this happen, with a common goal of providing a family-friendly location and spreading a bit of holiday cheer.
Two of them are Jeri Hyske and her husband, Herb Gottschalk. The pair are responsible for decorating the Christmas tree, which is the main sight for passersby on Pacific Avenue. The tree sits atop the Center’s Brickwalk and stands 16-18 feet tall.
“We’ve been decorating this tree for around 15 years,” Jeri said. “It has been such a fun project to have on our list each holiday season.”
It takes Jeri and her husband two days (and two ladders!) to complete the project. Herb begins the process by lighting the tree with more than 4,000 lights. They tackle the ornaments together: Jeri takes the larger ornaments at the bottom, and Herb takes the smaller ornaments at the top. Altogether, they place 300-400 ornaments on the tree. They also adorn the tree with gold netting, Christmas-colored ribbons and snowflakes.
“It’s a real tree, which always surprises people,” Jeri said. “But it’s incredibly eye-catching, and it gets our community into the spirit of the season.”
Chris Boyle, Lincoln Center’s maintenance supervisor, is responsible for lighting the Center – a task he’s happily executed for the last 12 years. With a crew of five to seven men, Chris lights around 50 trees, using about 600 strands of light.
According to Chris, this is a meticulous process, making sure each tree looks just like the last one. His team also lights the perimeter of every building with around 2,500 lights! Lastly, they hang festive wreaths and garland throughout the space. “Even though we are a bit behind the scenes,” Chris said, “we are so happy to be a part of what transforms this place. Our crew takes great pride in that.”
In addition, the Center features a Santa’s House display, a space dedicated to all things North Pole! A tradition that spans more than 15 years, the house has moved through many iterations, finding its home this year in the McCaulou’s Department Store.
Danielle Passadore has decorated Santa’s House for at least a decade. Normally a five-week process to complete, it includes anywhere from 8 to 50 trees, various pieces of Santa décor (think Christmas toys, snowmen and elves!), freshly-topped snow, a walkway to enjoy the decorations, and a large, red loveseat for Santa.
Last, but certainly not least – Santa! Keith Harrington has been the Center’s Santa for more than 20 years. There is a long history of our community’s children visiting Santa here. On winter days, one can find him walking through the Center, waving at guests and shouting, “Ho! Ho! Ho!”.
After learning how the Center prepares for the winter season, it’s time to take part in the holiday cheer! Visit us to enjoy the fun and check off your lists, and don’t forget to say, “Hi!” to Santa.