Getting a head start on the holidays

Monday, June 3, 2002

Around Christmastime, cities put up their manger displays, lights and other holiday decorations.

In Cape Girardeau, the downtown area is decorated with aging wreaths, with faded red bows and ball ornaments that have turned from red to orange. Through wear and tear, wreaths are missing greenery in patches and leaving wires exposed, which can cause shorts in the bulbs.

"They were probably nice," said Tamara Baldwin, a professor at Southeast Missouri State University. "But it's probably time to get some new ones."

The city does not buy or maintain the decoration for downtown Cape Girardeau; the Downtown Merchants Association does.

The association discussed the possibility of purchasing new decorations at their last meeting May 28. The type of decorations and possible budget have not yet been decided.

The merchants are currently exploring possible fund-raising options, said Charles McGinty, president of the association.

Baldwin would like to see white lights put up, otherwise she would be happy with anything festive, as long as it's not overtly religious.

Leah Ulrich of Cape Girardeau is also for a change in the decorations.

"I think it's pretty that they do decorate, but I wish they'd get some new stuff," Ulrich said. "The old ones are pretty scrappy looking."

The current decorations have been used for about 13 years, said Jayne Ervin, head of the decorations committee. They are stored in the basement of her store, Jayson Jewelers-Ervin's Metalsmiths Inc.

"We could probably limp by with them a couple of more years," Ervin said, "but they're getting a bit tacky."

Some additional costs that have arisen over the past couple of years, making it more difficult for the merchants to be able to afford new decorations, Ervin said.

In the past, volunteers from the community and utility company put up the decorations. "Now we have to rent a truck and pay people to put up decorations," Ervin said.

The merchants are grateful for the volunteers that the Parks and Recreation department send, said Ervin.

Because Christmas decorations can be a bit pricey, some cities opt to go without.

In Scott City, a drive-through Christmas light display is put on in the city park by local businesses and organizations, but the downtown area is not decorated.

In Jackson, the downtown area is decorated, along with a light display in the city park. Jackson's Chamber of Commerce is responsible for raising money to purchase and maintain the street decorations.

'It sets the tone'

The Chamber of Commerce purchased new decorations three years ago, said Ken Parrett, executive director of the Jackson Chamber of Commerce.

Parrett feels the decorations, such as their "Welcome Christmas" banners, lighted snowmen and Christmas lights, help to put everyone in that holiday mood.

"It sets the tone for the holiday season," Parrett said. "It is very important."

Having the decorations around the city is an important part of celebrating the holidays, said Shane Anderson, Jackson Parks and Recreation director.

"It keeps in the spirit of that time of year," Anderson said. "It sets the table, the ambiance. Christmas time is a special time of year."

jjoffray@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 226

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