What goes into the Lighting of the Square each holiday season?
Several thousand people watch in anticipation as the mayor begins the countdown for the Lighting of the Square for the holidays. It’s a magical experience—the Georgetown Square, which was all business the day before, suddenly transforms into a holiday wonderland. Without spoiling the magic, Shelly Hargrove, Main Street Manager, describes the work that goes into lighting up the Most Beautiful Town Square in Texas.
Who puts the holiday lights up, and how long does it take?
We use a professional lighting company. It takes them three to five nights. We don’t want them to block off parking during business hours, so they work at all hours of the night and sleep during the day. We’ve used professionals for the past three years.
What did the city do before hiring professionals?
We bought lights and wrapped the trunks of the corner oak trees ourselves with bigger bulbs, C-7s—the ones you see on the tops of buildings. And it looked really . . . not good. That’s when we decided to let professionals handle it.
How much does that cost?
The first year, it cost us around $30,000. This year, we’ll spend about $48,000.
Who covers those expenses?
City Council agreed to fund fifty percent of the cost, and the Main Street Advisory Board, which is made up of seven community volunteers, was charged to raise the rest.
Linda McCalla, who was the first Main Street Manager, really kicked off professionally lighting up the downtown corner oak trees. Her vision was to fundraise in the private sector—we don’t do any media blitz or big PR releases to raise money. It’s all about personal relationships.
Once the lights are up, then what?
It’s like a comedy of errors because you’re constantly trying to troubleshoot to keep it looking good every night. Chunks of lights will be out on a line and have to be replaced. We have squirrels that chew through the cords, and then we have to redo the lines. Any bad weather blows them out of the trees. If the outlets at the base of the trees get too much water in them, they will completely shut down the whole tree, and we’ll have to go and hit the reset button. It happens a lot. During the holidays, I feel like a little elf or gnome behind the scenes, running around screaming, “We have to fix this before tonight!”
Why is the lighting of the square important to you?
We want to do something that the locals love as well as tourists. What’s good for tourists is good for locals. And I would love for it to become a family tradition to watch the Lighting of the Square together the day after Thanksgiving, do some shopping, and eat dinner. To me, that’s when you make the best memories.
Come out for this year’s Lighting of the Square the Friday after Thanksgiving (November 28) at 5:30 p.m. For more information, go to visit.georgetown.org.