What? No downtown lights?

I have heard that there are folks who are a bit distressed because the Christmas lights that outline the buildings during the holiday season have not yet been turned on. I am here to tell you that things truly are on schedule with only minor hiccups. The lights will be turned on this weekend. The chief lighting elf has told me so.

There will be a problem on the east side of the street because of the damage to the American Legion building. The lights on both the east and west sides of the 100 block of North Walnut run on a connected circuit. The interruption at the Legion building will keep that side dark until the Legion façade is repaired, the lights are re-fastened, and the wiring and bulbs tested. Yes, that might be in 2013.

However, we are tough and resilient. We will all suck it up, enjoy the holidays as we should, and appreciate the lights that we do have, right?

Annually, the general plan for lighting the downtown Christmas lights is to flip the switch either the Saturday after Thanksgiving or the first Saturday in December. This schedule is set according to some personal holiday travel and family issues with the chief lighting elf and he is entitled to his personal holiday plans, as are the rest of us. Since the Saturday after Thanksgiving has passed us by, you may all be assured that the downtown lights will be aglow no later than this coming weekend.

The ground displays that are set up on the library lawn and in the park area north of the bank will be installed on Saturday as well, weather permitting. If you are out and about, just driving past either place, and see one or two volunteers putting up the skaters and carolers, feel free to stop and help out. I bet they would welcome your offer of assistance.

Also, if you enjoy the lighting displays and want to see them continue, remember this part — they are funded by donations! One of the easiest ways to contribute is through your city water bill. Sign up at the city building to have any amount from one dollar on up billed to you monthly and diverted to the Christmas Light Fund. You will likely not miss it and when multiplied by dozens of households it makes a healthy annual contribution to the holiday lighting project. Larger donations or memorial gifts also may be made to the Christmas Light Fund at the city building any time of the year.

Recently, the idea of expanding the lighting and the ground displays had to be put on hold because of vandalism and hail damage to the bulbs. Much of the money on hand went for replacement and maintenance; expanded lighting displays had to wait. However, technology has provided Peabody with sturdier products and there are plans in place to add ground displays and additional building outlines.

Lighting the downtown buildings was initially a memorial project in memory of Reeta Gillet, who died in 1991. Since then the project has undergone several shifts in emphasis and even was non-existent for a year. The lights seem to be something the community wants, so — in my most humble opinion — they should be something that the community supports, be it with money or volunteer effort.

Sign up to have a dollar or two added to your water bill to support the lights or show up downtown on Saturday to help install the ground displays. Instead of fussing at the coffee shop about “someone not puttin’ up the lights,” be a participant. If the lights are important to your Peabody Christmas holiday, help keep them a part of it!

— SUSAN MARSHALL

 

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