By Jeb Bladine • President / Publisher • 

Jeb Bladine: Partners produce holiday light magic

Once again this holiday season, a night drive or walk through downtown McMinnville reveals a spectacular canopy of tree lighting that magnifies the sidewalk and cross-street Christmas displays. It’s such a visual treat people often ask why we don’t keep those tree lights shining year-round — more on that topic below.

Old-timers remember when the Third Street holiday display consisted of one “Merry Christmas” message and a series of cross-street cables draped with boughs of greenery and a pair of very large red bells. I’m not sure when those bells made their first appearance downtown, but I suspect a stroll down memory lane would uncover images going well back into the 20th century.

I definitely remember 20-plus years ago when Doug Cummins from the city chaired the new Holiday Lighting Committee that started a transition to new display traditions – not just downtown, but along Baker and Adams streets through the city. Then, as today, four primary partners in meeting holiday lighting expenses were the city, Water & Light, the Chamber and downtown association.

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Jeb Bladine is president and publisher of the News-Register.

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At the time, McMinnville volunteer firemen continued their long tradition of hanging the lights, augmented by an outside company handling tree lights that became an instant hit. In recent years, all downtown lighting setup has been contracted out to C&D Landscaping Co. of Dayton, which specializes in residential and commercial holiday lighting and has produced a best-ever downtown holiday vision for 2016.

It’s not cheap, but then, it doesn’t look cheap. Replacement lights, heavy equipment and manpower costs exceeded $16,000 this year — up from about $15,000 in 2015. The city chipped in $6,500, Water & Light gave $4,000, the Chamber $650, and McMinnville Downtown Association committed to raise the $5,000 balance from the business community and other donors.

By the way, for those who truly appreciate the visual impact of this project, MDA still needs about $1,700 to complete its fundraising – all contributions welcomed at 105 N.E. Third Street.

Now, about those year-round tree lights: Seems they just can’t last through a full year of Oregon weather, tree-blossoming that breaks the strands and, yes, those ever-gnawing squirrels. Trying to remedy such problems mid-year when trees are full of leaves is too expensive, and removing lights after the holiday season allows an extra year of life for the lighting strings.

Perhaps some high-tech solution is in the offing, but meanwhile, we can enjoy what we have and appreciate the city, business and individual contributions making it happen.

Jeb Bladine can be reached at jbladine@newsregister.com or 503-687-1223.

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