December 4, 2023
This Issues Topics:
2023 • Aloha Christmas Santa Parade • Business Connections • December • Gingerbread House • Terry Harris • volunteers
Photos by Chronicle photo editor Jared Wenzelberger
Terry Harris, far right, poses for a photo alongside friends and family at the gingerbread house in Chehalis on Saturday, Nov. 18.

By Emily Fitzgerald

For the Chamber of Commerce

When the Centralia- Chehalis Chamber of Commerce’s board of directors decided the theme for this year’s Santa Parade in Chehalis would be “Aloha Christmas,” there was just one obvious choice for grand marshal: Terry Harris.

In addition to owning Aloha Paradise Family Hair Care in Chehalis and his own fair share of Hawaiian shirts, Harris has been involved in Chehalis’ holiday decorations since he was on the Chehalis City Council in the mid 2000s.

“She said, ‘Well, you actually made our meeting really short,’” Harris recalled of a phone conversation with Chamber chair Coralee Taylor where he learned he would be the grand marshal of the 73rd annual Santa Parade.

The parade starts at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 2 in downtown Chehalis.

Harris and his family moved to Chehalis in 1994. He cut hair at Appian Way in the Lewis County Mall for over a decade until the Lewis County Mall location closed and Harris started renting space on Kresky Avenue under the Aloha Paradise name.

“It’s great. I’m working with people I used to work with,” Harris said.

He was elected to the Chehalis City Council in 2004 and quickly started volunteering to help with routine cleaning and straightening of the city’s snowflake decorations.

In 2007, Harris recalled, the Chehalis Foundation asking someone with the city to put together a Christmas committee that the foundation can give $20,000 to in order to spruce up the city’s holiday decorations.

Harris was in the meeting where that committee proposal was brought up, as were Book N’ Brush owner David Hearts and Patty Kaija of Kaija’s Garden and Pet.

“Before I know it, I have three members of a committee all of a sudden,” Harris said, “So it’s up and running right away and we started looking at new decorations.”

With the money from the Chehalis Foundation, the “Christmas committee” purchased new ornaments and other decorations for display on Main Street. Soon after someone came up with the idea for a metal Christmas train in 2009, the committee had the idea to decorate the old pump house next to the Chehalis Parks and Recreation department building in Chehalis for the holidays.

The proposal at the time was for a gingerbread house or Santa’s workshop, Harris said.

“To me, it’s too small for Santa’s workshop,” Harris said of the pump house.

While Harris initially tried to pass off the decorating work for the gingerbread house to someone else due to the plethora of volunteer work he was already committed to, Harris said he and his family fell too in love with the decorating work the first year it went up in 2009 to give it up.

“We could not believe how much attention it was drawing just from people driving by while we were putting it together,” Harris said of the first year he and his family put up the gingerbread house.

It’s been over a decade now that Harris and his family have committed to putting up the gingerbread house and Christmas train in Chehalis, and it’s a highlight for his family and his community every year.

Harris credits his wife, Wendy Harris, for “helping me and allowing me to support my involvement with this ‘hobby’ of mine,” he said.

Photos by Chronicle photo editor Jared Wenzelberger

Terry Harris works to put up decorations on the roof of the gingerbread house in Chehalis on Saturday, Nov. 18.

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