Community comes together to celebrate Redmond Lights | SLIDESHOW

Below-freezing temperatures were not enough to deter the greater Redmond community from coming out to celebrate the 15th annual Redmond Lights festival on Saturday.

From the usual wool coats, knitted caps, scarves and gloves, to the odd pairs of ski and snow pants, people bundled up in extra-thick layers to ward off the cold and enjoy the festivities. Some members of the canine community present even donned sweaters to stay warm.

“This is my 10th (Redmond Lights) and this definitely is the coldest,” said Jill Smith, a business liaison for the City of Redmond, as she handed out Think Redmond blinkers to attendees.

This was Sanli Choe’s first time attending the festival but the five-year Redmond resident was not fazed by the cold weather. Instead, he chose to stick close to a burn barrel to stay warm, toasting marshmallows for s’mores as well as some cupcakes for a warm treat.

Suzanne Welch, who moved to downtown Redmond in June, was also attending Redmond Lights for the first time this year.

“It’s awesome,” she said about the festivities, adding that the event took her Christmas spirit up a notch.

Since she and her family have moved to town, Welch said they have attended the various events the city has put on such as Derby Days as well as cultural events like Ananda Mela. Leading up to Redmond Lights, she said they had been looking forward to the tree lighting at City Hall as they had seen it being wrapped up in lights in the days leading up to the event.

Despite the excitement leading up to the annual event, Welch admitted the cold weather raised a few questions in their household about whether they would be attending. But an unexpected turn of events at home confirmed their attendance.

“We actually lost power,” she said.

King County Council member Kathy Lambert was also present and has attended Redmond Lights every year since its inception. She said one of her favorite things about the event is seeing people from the community she normally wouldn’t see.

“I love how the holidays bring out the community spirit,” she said.

A self-confessed “lights addict,” Lambert said she also admires all the lights of Redmond Lights.

In addition to the tree lighting, one of the other highlights from Saturday’s event was the opening of the Redmond Central Connector (RCC).

“It’s a very special night…As longtime Redmond residents know, this was an abandoned railroad,” Redmond Mayor John Marchione said, referring to the RCC’s path.

During his remarks leading up to the tree lighting, Marchione encouraged people to use and enjoy the newly opened trail, which they got to do for the first time during the traditional Redmond Lights luminary walk.

This year, event organizers changed the walk’s path to connect the Sammamish River Trail with the RCC and head east into the downtown core, ending along the trail at 166th Avenue Northeast, near ERRATIC, public artist John Fleming’s sculpture of metal, glass and interactive light.

While walking the newly opened trail, people commented on the new route. Some said they’d been watching the RCC’s construction and have been looking forward to its opening, while others said they enjoyed the new route through the downtown.

A short ceremony was held to celebrate the RCC opening, with the mayor giving a few short remarks and then “flipping the switch” to light the new path.

Guy Michaelsen of The Berger Partnership, the Settle-based landscaping architecture consultants for the RCC, was also present for the opening of the trail. And having worked on the RCC since the beginning, Michaelsen was very excited to see part of the trail completed.

Like Choe and Welch, this was Michaelsen’s first time attending Redmond Lights and he was very impressed.

“This is such a fantastic community event,” he said. “You’ve got people coming out in 20-degree weather. You know you’ve got a good thing.”

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