The history of what is now a festive event that draws out thousands upon thousands of Campbell area residents and people all across the South Bay starts with a tree. It was a tree planted over 100 years ago by President Theodore Roosevelt when he visited the city of Campbell and commemorated his stay by planting a redwood in 1903. The Roosevelt redwood stood prominently on the corner of Winchester and Campbell Avenue for over sixty years until it was cut down controversially to make way for street expansion in 1964.
A couple of years after the original tree was felled, its seedlings were planted nearby on the grounds currently occupied by the Heritage Theater and the Campbell Community Center. Twenty years later, the sturdy and strong new tree became the focus of the first Carol of Lights in a tree lighting ceremony on Dec. 3rd, 1986.
Today, the Carol of Lights is cherished by Campbell residents as a tremendous show of community spirit and widely celebrated by people all around the South Bay as a wonderfully cheerful way to usher in the holiday season. The Carol of Lights truly is an event for all ages that gets the entire community involved. It's a holiday block party of sorts in the streets of Downtown Campbell where you might find a snow zone play area, petting zoo, Santa visits, hot chocolate being handed out by local charities, Christmas carolers, merry bands of musicians, dancers, street performers, horse drawn "sleigh rides", fun holiday displays, food, and late shopping hours at many of the stores in Downtown Campbell.
In 2005, the Carol of Lights had had grown such a reputation that the Travel Channel even showed up to do a profile spot on the event for one of their shows. Ironically, the community of Campbell almost had to pass on the honor of being featured in national media because the city lacked the budget to fund the event. The threat of breaking tradition and turning one of the most festive evenings in the South Bay into a silent Sunday was averted by group led by Sally Howe, publisher of the Campbell Express newspaper. Her group, the Committee for the Carol of Lights, banded together to organize and find volunteers and donors to not only bring the lights, fun, and cheer back for a 19th year in a row, but bring it back even bigger than years before.
If you were there in 2005, you'll know that despite the close call, the event was as spirited and festive as ever thanks to the efforts of those who came together to keep the tradition going. As of 2008, the event continues to be powered by volunteer labor and self-funded through donations from the community. Despite the popularity, the event continues to be challenged for funding. Please help us keep this celebration of community, spirit, and goodwill alive with an online contribution. No amount is too small and for all contributions of $10 or more, you can leave a special holiday message for others to read on this website.