Trimming the Trees……or not

Christmas is a great time of year. People gather together with friends and familiesand the whole community seems to come together once again to help our fellow man. This time of year, our organization also deals with the decorations in Washington Park. This always seems to be a hot-button for people. I can certainly understand that given how much I enjoy doing the same thing in my own home. However, decorating a public park isn’t as easy as it might seem. I wanted to take a few minutes to let people know why we do what we do, what we plan on doing in the future, and how people can get involved.

First, it is important to know that the Quincy Park District and City of Quincy have never been responsible for the lighting displays in the park. They have both generously helped with manpower to put them up, and utilities to keep them lit, but the decorations have been provided through our organization in years past as well as today.

Many people would like to see us put lights back in the trees. There are a number of barriers to make that a reality. The first and foremost is cost. We haven’t put lights in trees for several years now, but even when we were the cost was around $3000 per year. The City of Quincy would assist with the installation of the lights. They used to just string them, but winds would knock them down and so they began to use zip ties to secure them to the tree. At the end of the year, the Park District would take them down, but the Park District’s lift truck isn’t as tall as the City’s so they would only be able to get to 2/3 or so of the lights. They would simply reach up and yank to pull everything they could and then wait until the lights started dangling on their own to get the rest. They would stay up for a considerable amount of time. How long? The last strand of lights was finally removed on November 22 of this year. Due to how they had to be removed, this also meant that the lights were not useable from year to year, so each year was another $3000. As sponsorships for the lights moved (I’ll talk about that in a minute), we were forced to scale back our efforts. We would love to see a larger display but the bottom line is that dollars are needed to make that a reality, and Christmas displays are very expensive.

Some people have talked about the music that used to be played in the park during the holidays as well. We have looked into this, but unfortunately the licensing (or potential fines if you didn’t get licensing), has made this cost-prohibitive. We will continue to look at this option, but until costs come down dramatically, it will have to stay on the back burner.

Commercial grade Christmas displays are very expensive. We need to get the commercial grade items so that we can continue to build from year to year and not just replace. We’d like to see our efforts grow. It’s very easy to say we should go get sponsors, but it is never as easy as it sounds. One reason is the fantastic display that the Avenue of Lights has become. This is a great addition to our community’s holiday festivities, and something my family and I go through every year and enjoy a great deal. Look at each of those displays the next time you drive by and count the companies that are providing dollars to make that possible. That is where sponsorship dollars are going, and with good reason. They receive a pretty big bang for their buck. The companies who choose to sponsor Christmas decorations for the community tend to do so there, which leaves us needing more dollars to make the displays downtown possible.

Please don’t misunderstand, I don’t begrudge these companies one bit. I understand the decision and would probably make the same one if I were in their position. We just have to be realistic about what that has become and why companies will choose to spend their dollars there. We have also been very blessed the last few years by having Comcast as a sponsor for the downtown holiday lights. Without their assistance, we wouldn’t be able to do anything in the park. We are eternally grateful for their help and thankful they continue to assist us in bringing some Christmas decor to downtown Quincy.

Hopefully this helps to explain how we got to where we are with Christmas decorations in our community. So where do we go from here? Our organization is in the process of developing a sponsorship packet for 2014 which includes the Christmas displays. We will be letting all our businesses know about the opportunities to sponsor Christmas lights early in the year so that hopefully we can secure a few more sponsors. We will continue to work through our design committee to put together the best possible display for our downtown. If you would like to contribute to the fund or help with fundraising efforts, please feel free to contact me via email at any time.

In the mean time, we want to thank Comcast for their sponsorship and hope that everyone enjoys the display that we will be lighting Friday night. Merry Christmas!

-Travis M. Brown, Executive Director