FORT IRWIN, Calif. — On December 1, Fort Irwin’s Morale, Welfare and Recreation team transformed the Town Center into a slice of holiday cheer complete with a towering tree, an ice skating rink and a choir of carolers.
More than 1,500 people attended the annual Holiday Market and Tree Lighting, according to MWR estimates. The warm desert weather, as well as new attractions like the portable ice skating rink, were key in driving participation this year, said Carla Averill, the special events coordinator for MWR. Community members who attended were also treated to a free hot cocoa bar provided by MWR, a full market featuring more than 30 unique vendors, and free giveaways such as gift cards and a trip to Big Bear.
The event also offered attractions for Fort Irwin’s youngest residents, including visits and photos with Santa, holiday train rides and a special Elves Workshop. The workshop, hosted by personnel from the Fort Irwin Library, was stocked with small gifts – all costing $1 each – that children could purchase for their parents or siblings.
Averill said she likes to think outside the box when planning events.
“I like bringing different things in and adding different things to each event, so it’s not the same event each time. It’s really important to me to do that,” she said. “I’m a family member here, I’m a spouse, but I was also a Civilian working here for years. So I have a really all-around perspective and I think it helps when I plan the events for the community.”
She added that events like the Holiday Market could never happen without support from many individuals, units, organizations and volunteers across Fort Irwin. For example, it took weeks for the team to decorate the Town Center and the 25-foot tree. All of the electricians, safety personnel, Soldiers and others were integral to the process, she said. But while it’s a lot of work to put on these types of events, Averill said the effort is well worth it.
“It’s so important, because we’re so remote and isolated,” she said. “This gives you something you can walk to with your family, and just enjoy something when you don’t have to get in a car and spend a lot of money and time.”
“I know time, especially with Soldiers, is minimal, and when we do things, we want it to be worthwhile,” she added. “So I think it’s important that when there’s something happening, that it’s quality and it’s good.”