Vandals strike Christmas lights; refurbishing planned next year

Published 9:37 am Monday, December 21, 2015

Star File Photo The Christmas light displays downtown have seen recent acts of vandalism.

Star File Photo
The Christmas light displays downtown have seen recent acts of vandalism.

Christmas lights in the downtown have been stripped of their cheer more than once this season.
“Every year we have bulbs taken from the ground displays that we have to replace. This year, one display — a deer near the Covered Bridge — has been hit numerous times. We have had to replace its lights numerous times,” said Joe Alexander, downtown businessman, who heads up the Christmas Lights Committee.
Also, Alexander said the Santa and Reindeers scene, which had been originally set up on Edwards Island near the walking trail, had to be moved because vandals kept pulling up the stakes. “Every morning we found the display lying on the ground, so we moved it to another spot,” said Alexander.
In past years, the lights in the Peace on Earth sign in the Covered Bridge Park have been the target of vandals. “It’s not been hit as much this year as some of the other displays,” Alexander said.
He noted that after the first of the year, the committee is contemplating a fundraising drive to refurbish the pole lights and ground displays. “It’s been about 18 years since we have done anything to the lights, and they’re getting in pretty bad shape. They need to be re-painted and re-wired,” Alexander said.
The City and the Electric Department along with donations from the public pay for the annual upkeep and storage of the lights, which runs about $6,900 a year. Twin City Decorating in Bristol stores the lights and installs them each year.
“Overall, we have over 120 pole lights and 12 ground displays,” said Alexander. The pole lights are displayed in the downtown, on parts of Main Street, Riverside Drive, E Street and Sycamore Street.
The lighted decorations came at the urging of the late Harvey Anderson, former councilman and Elizabethton City School Board member. “Harvey lobbied hard for the lights and they have lasted us a long time. We get a lot of comments from the public and out-of-town visitors on the Christmas decorations,” Alexander said.
“For as long as I can remember we have had lights downtown,” he said.
Alexander is pondering the idea of asking the public to buy a bulb for $1 to help with the refurbishing of the present decorations, which he estimates will cost from $15,000 to $20,000.
“The public has been very good to give toward the lights each year, and we hope they will help us with the refurbishing of them,” Alexander said.

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