Burlington’s new brighter holiday look coming to downtown

The snowflake look would be usable beyond Christmas into February.

I don’t know the last time Burlington changed its Christmas lighting downtown but the lackluster displays from recent years were in place when I moved back here in 2007. So the look has been around for a while.

That’s about to change.

The Burlington Downtown Corporation presented a proposal to the city council on Feb. 1 that will bring an entirely new approach to Christmas holiday décor and also improve lighting overall year-round in some relatively dark blocks and alleyways. The latter has proved to be an issue downtown now that more restaurants and bars are operating on Front, Main, Davis and Spring streets.

Downtown Corporation Executive Director Sara Beth Hardy presented the plan developed by the BDC’s Design Committee at the behest of the council. A couple of months ago, while the old lights and decorations were up, City Manager Hardin Watkins and council members heard complaints from business owners and city residents about the old lights, tree and wreaths that were neither festive, creative or provided much light. The fixtures were old, tired and didn’t really say “welcome to Burlington for Christmas.” Holiday lighting in Graham, on the other hand, said “come on in, we’re having fun.”

As luck would have it, the Design Committee had a plan ready to go. It had worked on a proposal for several months that was ready to present almost immediately. Hardy offered city officials a detailed Power Point presentation with lighting ideas from vendors. Two photos in this post are illustrations that were part of Hardy’s presentation. The possibilities include lights that stretch across downtown streets, snowflake winter wonderland motifs, a whimsical St. Nick North Pole kind of display and café lighting with white lights wrapping the trees at the often-dark Historic Depot courtyard. A new movable Christmas tree would be another addition. All would use LED lights.

An example of lighting proposed for trees in the Historic Depot courtyard.

It’s an ambitious proposal but also a dynamic one that would change the vibe downtown for the Christmas season – and into the winter. Snowflake lights, for example, could be used into February. Funding for the lighting and other décor would come from the BDC’s fund balance – money previously budgeted in prior years that wasn’t spent. The city would provide help with infrastructure issues such as access to electricity.

Peter Bishop, the city liaison to the BDC board of directors and Burlington’s director of Economic Development, said council members are delighted with the proposal and eager for the BDC to move forward. “They want to make this happen,” Bishop told the BDC board.

If all goes according to plan – and if anything can be learned by the current global pandemic it is that all plans are moving targets – by the time the Christmas season arrives in 2021 there will be an entirely new holiday glow downtown.

“Hopefully by the next holiday season there will be a different feel downtown,” said BDC board president Coleman Rich.

That would be a festive way to celebrate what will hopefully be the end of the current pandemic.

This wreath was installed by the BDC for Christmas in 2020 at the Historic Depot and was a popular feature for people taking photos this past holiday season. The BDC hopes to include more interactive elements in the new decor plan.

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