The Philomath Public Art Ad Hoc Committee got together earlier this week to begin a discussion about bringing back holiday decorations to downtown street poles.
It’s a renewed conversation, actually, with this particular topic coming and going over the years. In early 2015, I sat down for an interview with Michelle Waddell and Jack Duren of the Philomath Downtown Association about their organization’s vision for the future. Among the topics that came up was resurrecting Christmas decorations along Main Street. However, later that same year, that organization had disbanded and nothing with decorations occurred.
From what I could find out, a discovery of Christmas lights in possession of the city had returned in 2010 through the efforts of volunteers Dale Collins and Carole Richardson. That year, a Public Works employee discovered old Christmas lights in a barn off Bellfountain Road.
“We looked in a lot of places all over for the lights,” Collins told the Corvallis Gazette-Times. “We kept hearing different things but we finally got a break.”
The community came together and spent a week at Public Works cleaning and painting the lights and replacing bulbs. The origin of the lights — 24 were found at that time — reportedly were purchased by Philomath residents Dave and Jeanine Vincent in the 1980s. Collins said the Vincents had seen a lights display while driving through Monmouth one night and were inspired to do something for their town.
Apparently, there were more lights to be found.
Before 2010, the lights apparently hadn’t appeared downtown since 2004. That year, the Philomath chamber discontinued the program because of liability issues. The previous year, heavy winds blew down two of the heavy decorations and even though there was no damage, the potential existed. The chamber at the time asked the city to take over the program, according to newspaper accounts, and gave them the decorations. But the city also had liability concerns, including the cost, and they ended up in storage.
Now, the public art committee is taking on the possibility of bringing lights back to the downtown — new ones, not necessarily the old ones. The committee discussed types of decorations, how many to put up, the cost that would be involved (the decorations are not inexpensive) and where to get the money, limitations related to ODOT and what to do with the old lights — possibly using them on a side street or even in a city park. The possibility seems appropriate with the streetscapes project underway.
Volunteer Marcia Gilson talked briefly about the historical lights and said there are probably about 35 of them and maybe 10 to 12 of them work.
The issue will be revisited and the committee sounded like it intended to get feedback from the chamber before going to the public, possibly with a survey.
Christmas lights in the downtown vicinity sound like a great idea — especially to enhance the festive atmosphere provided by the community tree in front of the museum. But there are a lot of details to iron out. Stay tuned.
(Brad Fuqua is publisher/editor of the Philomath News. He can be reached at News@PhilomathNews.com).