Holiday Lighting Committee is seeking sponsors

Published 9:03 am Tuesday, October 16, 2018

For many, the holiday season starts the end of November or even the first week of December. For local businessman Joe Alexander, of Alexander Insurance, the season begins mid-October instead, and it starts with mailing letters across the city.

Alexander serves as Treasurer for the Holiday Lighting Committee, and as the holiday season approaches, the responsibility of fundraising for this year’s decorations falls to him.

However, with the majority of the lights and displays reaching 20 years old or older, Alexander said it is time to renovate and refurbish for newer times.

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Alexander said the committee’s founder, Harvey Anderson, asked him to serve as Treasurer when the committee first started in 1998.

“I have always enjoyed our Christmas decorations,” Alexander said. “We have the prettiest downtown in east Tennessee.”

Most of the decorations have been in use since the committee started, including a full Nativity scene and Christmas Carolers. The standing displays are made of cast-iron, which Alexander says makes them sturdy, but they have been forming rust over time.

Alexander started campaigning for the funds to refurbish the lights and decorations last holiday season.

“This is on top of the normal fundraising we do just to set up the lights,” he said.

The committee is currently promoting a sponsorship program, where donors can donate $130 to “adopt” a pole. This puts a special sign on the pole, which can promote whatever the donor wants.

“We often have businesses who like to sponsor a pole,” Alexander said. “We also have people do it in honor of someone or in memory of someone.”

He said people sponsored roughly 40-50 poles last year.

While the $130 donation is what the Lighting Committee is advertising, Alexander said they appreciate any donation amount people are willing or able to give.

Alexander also said he has partnered with Elizabethton schools for various donation drives, including “Buy a Bulb,” where students and parents could drop off money in specially-marked boxes in certain schools in order to “buy a bulb” and contribute to the decorations in any way they can.

For the decorations themselves, the Holiday Lighting Committee is actually part of a trinity of groups involved with the decorations each year. Twin City Decoration is the company who directly sets up and takes down the decorations each year. They partner with the City of Elizabethton to organize them, and the Holiday Lighting Committee handles the majority of the fundraising, since it normally costs around $7,000 just to set up, take down and store the lights from season to season.

From the financial side of the story, Alexander said the City of Elizabethton contributes about $1,960 a year towards that total and the electric company contributes roughly $2,450 a year. The committee has to come up with the rest, a little over $4,400, and all of that is just the normal operating costs, not including the extra needed to refurbish and update the lights and displays.

As for how the refurbishment project has progressed, Alexander said the fundraising has been progressing.

“If we can get another 25 or 30 poles [sponsored], we should be able to finish the refurbishment,” he said.

That does not mean the fundraising ends once they meet their goal, however. Alexander said he has other ways to continue keeping the lights shining brightly.

Alexander said it may be possible to purchase new lights and decorations in the future, but for now, he says he enjoys the decorations they currently have.

One of his favorites, he said, is the Christmas tree on the mountain, which lights up around mid-November.

“I hope visitors will enjoy the lights downtown,” Alexander said. “And for people who live here, I hope they enjoy them, too.”

Those interested in making a donation, or those who just want more information about how to get involved, can contact Alexander during his regular business hours at Alexander Insurance Agency, or by phone at 543-2221. Donors can also mail their donations to 612 East Elk Ave., Elizabethton, TN 37643.