Celebrities have helped turn on the lights to the holiday tree at the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway Mountain Station, such as Fred “The Hammer” Williamson in 2004.
PHOTOGRAPHY COURTESY PALM SPRINGS AERIAL TRAMWAY
As with most things in Palm Springs, the tree lighting is a big to-do, with festive activities including live music and visits with Santa. Although it’s not clear when the first tree was raised, Riverside’s newspaper, The Press-Enterprise, documents carolers as early as the tram’s inception in 1963.
Records maintained by the tram describe a December 1966 tree-lighting soirée in which silent film star — and former Palm Springs mayor — Charlie Farrell flipped the giant switch, igniting a tradition of celebrity guest switch-flippers that has included Red Skelton, Jack Jones, and Carol Channing.
That 1966 party featured “the biggest show ever, the highest Christmas tree, the largest Santa Claus, and free gifts for every youngster,” according to Indio’s Daily News. “Hollywood’s biggest man,” 7-foot-1-inch Robert Maffei, dressed as St. Nick, and media outlets as far as Glendale and Van Nuys advertised that the tram tree would “probably be the highest in the nation, inasmuch as it will be lighted at an elevation of 8,516 feet.”
Attend the Tree Lighting
Palm Springs Aerial Tramway hosts its annual tree-lighting festivities Sunday, Dec. 4. All you’ll need is a regular tram ticket to ascend the mountain and be there when this year’s guest of honor flips the switch. pstramway.com
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