Santa Steam Train

Santa takes a selfie with one of the families that rode the Santa Steam Train last year in Chehalis. 

Sometimes, I think there’s no better time to live in Lewis County than during the holidays. Often, it’s when I feel most proud of our little communities.

In case you missed it, downtown Centralia was featured by Seattle Magazine ( this past week. “Centralia Is a Holiday Season Haven,” the headline declared. It continued: “Historic downtown Centralia might only be a short drive or train ride from Seattle, but it’s authentic holiday charm makes it feel a world away.”

Well, I can’t disagree with you there, Seattle Mag. While walking Fifth Avenue or the waterfront in Seattle at Christmas can be magical, there’s really just no comparison. Seattle doesn’t have the charm that Centralia — and Chehalis and surrounding communities — have.

“During the holidays, the town exudes a holiday spirit that would make Norman Rockwell proud,” Seattle Magazine says. 

And if you just take a walk through our downtown cores, you’ll see that to be true.

I believe the increased coordination by groups such as the Centralia Downtown Association and Experience Chehalis have directly contributed to this resurgence of holiday magic that’s making downtown Centralia and Chehalis a holiday destination that — dare I say — rivals places like Leavenworth during the holidays. 

We might not embrace the Bavarian style, but these days, you’d be hard-pressed to find an undecorated window downtown. The “buy-in” from local merchants and retailers seems to be at an all-time high.

Numerous businesses in Centralia and Chehalis participated in “Black Friday” sales events this year — taking on the big box stores pound-for-pound. While events are typically built around “big box” stores such as Walmart and others, small businesses locally continue to band together, a little stronger and more impactful each year, and taking their own bite out of the post-holiday shopping staple.

The Centralia-Chehalis Chamber of Commerce’s “Black Friday Survival Bags” encouraged shoppers to make a day of it with local merchants and retailers, enticing them with coupons, local sales flyers, and random gift card prizes to local businesses and for local experiences.

In a double whammy to the big box stores, many downtown merchants strongly embraced “Shop Small” Saturday this year, too, with the highest percentage of participation that I’ve ever personally observed.

And, they’re doing it in highly creative and unique ways. 

Three Dog Night, a local dog grooming business, is celebrating by hosting the Centralia Police Department K-9 program Saturday to encourage shoppers to both “Shop Small” and support the local K-9 fundraiser program. Rectangle Gallery is hosting art events. Dawn’s Delectables and The Porch on Tower are hosting a pictures with Santa event to benefit the Lewis County Forgotten Children’s fund. Plus, again, numerous sale events are planned.

And this is a full week before “Winterfest” even officially kicks off in Centralia with open house events. On top of that, Winterfest will align with the 70th Annual Santa Parade in Chehalis, coordinated by the Centralia-Chehalis Chamber of Commerce.

Now, Centralia might have gotten the feature in Seattle Magazine, but Chehalis certainly has its own claims to fame when it comes to Christmas. If you haven’t seen it yet this year — Chehalis now has a lighted Christmas gingerbread house at old Henderson Park at 13th & Market. This is in addition to the fairly new Christmas train across from the Gail and Carolyn Shaw Aquatic Center. Both displays are proudly coordinated by Chehalis City Councilor Terry Harris and family.

Like I said, Centralia might have gotten the feature — but I still don’t think Centralia can compete with the elaborate lighted displays that Chehalis has going on. And, you know what else Centralia doesn’t have? A Christmas train. There are multiple Santa holiday train rides and Polar Express train rides scheduled at the Chehalis-Centralia Railroad and Museum, too.

Imagine riding the train down from Seattle and getting to ride a Christmas train, too! That’s the magic that Centralia and Chehalis can bring together.

Keep your eyes open for more information the weekend of the Centralia Lighted Tractor Parade, too. There is a Christmas Market planned at the Centralia Train Depot. And, King Agricultural Museum will be open and offering free admission that day, too.

If you want to kick off the holiday spirit early this year, don’t forget about the Adaline Coffman Guild’s annual holiday fundraiser event, “A Night Out For Good,” on Friday, Dec. 6 at 6 p.m. at the LOFT in Chehalis to benefit uncompensated medical care for Lewis County kids — or, the Lewis County Holiday Gala on Saturday, Dec. 7, at The Vintage Grand Room at the Historic Hotel Washington starting at 6 p.m. to benefit Bjorn Roth, Braylon Springer, Jamee Gleason, Lewis County Foster Children, East Lewis County Toy Drive, Centralia College Trio Club, The Cat’s Meow, and local Coats For Kids. Both events would surely put anyone in the holiday spirit. Honorable mention to Dick’s Ugly Sweater Party on Dec. 21, too.

No matter how you choose to celebrate the holidays this year, you have an incredible wealth of options locally, and many of them benefit businesses, funds and causes right here in Lewis County. So let’s get out there have a good ol’ fashioned Lewis County Christmas this year.


Brittany Voie is a columnist for The Chronicle. She lives south of Chehalis with her husband and two young sons. She welcomes correspondence from the community at

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