The city of Hillsboro and the Hillsboro Uptown Business Association (HUBA) will kick off the Christmas season with an annual tree lighting ceremony and other festivities Friday from 5-8 p.m., with the actual tree lighting ceremony set to take place at 6 p.m.
The 22-foot tall Norway spruce. located at the corner of North Street and Gov, Trimble Place, is a gift to the city from Rhoades Ridge Tree Farm on Prouty Drive in Hillsboro. Jessica Rhoades told The Times-Gazette that it’s “roots” can actually be traced back to a tree farm in Brown County.
“We went to Corsi Tree Farm in Hamersville, which has been in business since 1955,” she said. “We cut the tree on Sunday and brought it up to Hillsboro, and we hope we can do that for the city every year until ours get big enough.”
Rhoades is one of the guidance counselors at Hillsboro High School and her husband, James, is principal of the Hillsboro Intermediate School.
They started the Rhoades Ridge Tree Farm two years ago, and she said that when word got around town regarding their tree farm, the city approached them to see if they could provide the city with a Christmas tree.
“A tree that size will take about 25 to 30 years to be ready,” she said. “I told Lauren Walker at the city office that I knew of a tree farm near us where I could get one from.”
True to her word, the Rhoadeses delivered and donated the 25-year old Norway spruce at no cost to the city. Both the city and members of the Hillsboro FFA decorated and strung up the lights Wednesday afternoon in preparation for Friday’s big party.
Rhoades said she and her husband wanted to be able to donate a tree to the city, but knew it would be several years before they would be ready.
“We actually have a plot of trees planted right now, but it’ll be my kids and grandkids that will end up donating back to the city,” she said. “That will be a plot of trees that we won’t cut and will keep available for the city.”
She said they plant roughly 1,000 trees per year, and hope to begin harvesting Christmas trees in the next two years.
There are plans to expand the Christmas tree farm next year to embrace the whole holiday season experience, and since the couple built a barn that she called a “Christmas Shop,” it would be complete with Santa and Mrs. Claus, traditional Christmas cookies and seasonal home accents.
“We absolutely love it here, we love Hillsboro, this is our home,” she said. “We love the kids here and we’ll never leave this district. This is where we grew up and we hope to continue to serve the community here as long as we can.”
She was excited about Friday’s Christmas celebration and tree-lighting ceremony, and predicted a record-breaking crowd.
“I have heard from so many people who are planning to come out for this tree lighting,” she said. “It’ll be a beautiful night, and my nieces and nephews told me they’re driving in from Columbus just so they could come back to their hometown to be a part of this.”
Friday’s event will include old-time photos with Santa provided by Merchants National Bank, a tour of children’s Christmas activities at participating stores and free carriage rides, with Wandering Walrus wandering about selling hot chocolate and hot apple cider.
Next week will be the annual lighted Christmas Parade, now scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 12 at 6 p.m.
This year’s parade theme is “Candyland,” and the parade is being dedicated to the memory of the late Joe Mahan.
Parade registration forms are available on the HUBA and city of Hillsboro Events Facebook pages.
Reach Tim Colliver at 937-402-2571.