Wednesday, December 6, 2023

A Covelo Christmas: One Citizen’s Calling to Light the Night


Covelo resident and business owner Jessi Alvarado fondly remembered her elementary school days where annually students would make decorations for Christmas trees placed throughout the town. Covelo classrooms would adopt a tree and take a field trip to decorate them. As she grew older, she watched the town tradition wane.

Monoah Vela climbing high to decorate a Covelo telephone pole

Three years ago, Alvarado visited Lake Tahoe, saw the municipality’s holiday decor, and yearned to bring Christmas cheer back to Covelo. Instead of waiting on someone else to do it, she said to herself, “I’m a grown-up. If I want decorations in my town, I can just do it.”

Alvarado, along with an altruistic group of Covelo residents, sought to light their town’s night and have adorned the city streets with Christmas lights, wreaths, and trees, reminding the community of the spirit of the season. 

A Christmas Wreath in front of the recently burned Round Valley Center for the Arts

Alvarado said she started her guerilla Christmas cheer campaign two years ago and has watched each year the community’s interest grow. 

In light of this year’s downtown fires and the pandemic, Alvarado said this year, appreciation for the decorations had flooded her social media. She said citizens throughout the town had donated materials and time to bring holiday cheer to Covelo’s streets. 

Alvarado said residents sponsored reusable Christmas wreaths that could be used for future years. She recalled being high on an orchard ladder, hanging wreaths on telephone poles, and Covelo residents walking by and handing her tools and ribbons she had left on the ground. 

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Alvarado’s spirit of kindness brought the pioneer of Covelo’s Christmas cheer into her life. “After the first year I put up decorations, I got a letter from Shirley Martion,” who Alvarado said was the lunch lady at her elementary school. Alvarado remembered Martion as “always being positive and optimistic and always decorating the cafeteria.” In that letter, Alvarado learned that not only was Martion the cheerful lunch lady at her school, but the woman responsible for the Covelo Christmas trees of her youth.

Shirley Martion, the festive and cheerful lunch lady that inspired Alvarado’s efforts.

When asked about Alvarado’s work to bring Christmas cheer to Covelo, Round Valley Tribal Councilwoman Kat Willits said, “Jessi”s efforts to bring cheer and happiness to our community is like a prayer being answered.” 

Jenna Sebastian, Jessi Alvarado, and Jennifer Perego working hard to spread Christmas cheer in Covelo

Willits characterized 2020 as a “strain on everyone’s spirit” and “Jessie’s efforts give us inspiration and hope for the joy that this time of year should bring.” Willits sees the Christmas decorations as a reminder “to make this holiday as cheerful as possible for children and families.” 

Reflecting on Alvarado’s decision to brighten Covelo’s long winter night, Willits simply said, “Our community needs this.”

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Matt LaFever
Matt LaFeverhttps://mendofever.com/
I like to think of myself as a reporter for the Average Joe. Journalism has become a craft defined largely by city dwellers on America's coasts. It’s time to take it back. I have been an Emerald Triangle resident since 2006 and this is year ten in Mendocino County. Please, email me at matthewplafever@gmail.com if you know a story that needs to be told.

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