The focal point of Georgetown’s Christmas decorations is the 30-foot Fraser fir in Francis Marion Park on Front Street. It is strung with 20,000 lights.
‘Tis the season to decorate and most people spend a couple of days making sure their house and yard are looking good for the holidays. It takes a lot more time and effort to decorate the entire city to ensure it looks good for Hanukah and Christmas.
Preparation begins in early October with seven Electric Department employees moving decorations from storage to the Electric Department. In between their daily work load, they’re busy checking bulbs, sockets and wiring for safety hazards and to make sure that all lights are working. Each decoration is checked and rewired if necessary.
There are 87 old-fashioned light poles on Front Street between Fraser and Queen streets. Each one is wrapped with garland and lights along with 174 bows that are fluffed and strategically placed on each side.
Eighty six other utility poles throughout the city are decorated with lighted snowflakes, candles, stars and angels to give our entire city a warm holiday appearance.
The workers also transform Francis Marion Park from an open area to a holiday setting with an “Angel” Christmas tree. This tree is sponsored by Inmate Fellowship and encourages good-hearted citizens to stop by and pick an angel from the tree and purchase a gift for a needy child.
For the past several years, Bell Law Firm has kindly donated a 30-foot Fraser fir that is unloaded and secured by the city line crew. Over the course of a week, 20,000 lights are strung with care around each limb and on top, the placement of a star combined with several bows streaming down the upper limbs. They also make sure the tree is safely lighted and a large sleigh is placed next to the tree for kids and parents to climb on and have photographs made.
Just a week after the large tree was finished it was vandalized by some “Grinches” who broke several limbs and strands of lights trying to climb to the top. Another day was spent repairing the damage.
The removal of decorations on the Sampit River Bridge several years ago caused quite an uproar by citizens who wanted the decorations back on the bridges. The brackets and wiring were removed and are being replaced this year, which has taken more time than expected. Three employees are working an hour on each pole to replace the wiring and brackets on each of the 42 poles that provide lighting over the bridges.
Replacing the brackets and wiring requires a worker in a bucket truck parked on the bridge with the bucket extended out over the side of the bridge combined with speeding cars and trucks flying by and on some days, gusts of wind.
The city’s Christmas Decorating Committee added a new idea this year by suggesting wrapping steel rods with lights and placing them at some of the entrances to the city and in some of the city parks. The committee also enlisted the help of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes from Georgetown High School to assist with the new decorations. The city is grateful to these students who took great pride and care in completing this project.
After Christmas, citizens are urged to bring their trees to the empty lot on Dozier and Prince across from city hall. The trees will be ground into mulch which will then be available at no charge to city residents for use in their flower beds.
While some citizens voice concern about the decorations, we need to remember that the employees who decorate our city have other responsibilities and often times, electrical emergencies take them away from completing the decorations in a timely manner.
It requires approximately 830 hours each year for the city’s electric department to decorate our city. If this were billed out at approximately $20 per hour, the cost would be $16,600 plus the cost for removal in January.
I thank the employees who perform their regular daily duties along with decorating the many poles, parks and bridges. They look great. Merry Christmas.
By Paige Sawyer
Special to The Times
Paige Sawyer is a member of Georgetown City Council.
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