Friday, November 28, 2014

Lighting up Windham for the holidays - By Michelle Libby

This year Windham has that holiday spirit. TIF money was set aside by the town council to decorate with lights located at major intersections and highly visible properties all over town. From the rotary circle at Route 202 and Route 302 to the lawn at Norway Savings Bank and the trees at Cross Insurance, the town is bubbling with excitement over the lights.  
“We hope to attract holiday shoppers into the mood. They are drawn to other places that get decorated through the holiday,” said town councilor Donna Chapman, who brought the proposal forward. “It’s so dark through North Windham this time of year.”

The Town and Economic Development director Tom Bartell contracted with Lucas Tree to string the lights and his department purchased the grapevine balls to wrap lights around. Two large signs, one that says “Season’s Greetings” and the other “Peace on Earth” are being delivered this week. 

“People have been thrilled (with the lights),” Bartell said. “All the comments from that one night at the rotary, they were very pleased. They say that we care.” Councilor Tommy Gleason said that he had gotten many calls to complement the lights and decorations. 
“Many of us wanted to be able to do something to bridge holiday spirit,” Bartell said. 

Bartell enlisted the help of Windham Town Clerk Linda Morrell to decide where to put many of the decorations and lights. Morrell, a decorating guru, according to those at the town hall, helped with colors at the rotary and convinced the public works to add a tree and a few lighted orbs to the space at the town hall. She has been the one coordinating the decorating at the town hall for years. “It’s exciting. I love Christmas,” she said. “It looks so magical,” she said of the lights in town.  

Lucas also decorated the local fire stations with wreaths and lights, replacing the red outline of lights from past years. 

The town purchased the lights, but the businesses on Route 302 are the one supplying the electricity to run them. The businesses helping are Seacoast Fun Park, Norway Savings Bank, Key Bank, Windham Shopping Plaza and Cross Insurance. The first company to step up to volunteer was People’s United Bank, however due to electrical difficulties, they were not able to participate, Bartell said. 

The decorating and decorations cost the town $34,000. Many of the items will be reused year after year. The grapevine orbs cost up to $500 for the large one and the signs are $5,000 each. 

The season’s greetings flags are also going up this week. Chapman hopes that the town can add onto the decorations a little more each year. 

“Next year it won’t cost as much,” Bartell said. “We want this to become part of our regular tradition.”
“We have a thriving small business community in the area,” Chapman said. She wants to see the town do everything it can to bring customers to the area. 

The lights are scheduled to go full power on Wednesday and will be up through New Year’s. On Saturday night an alleged drunk driver drove into the rotary, crashed into a tree totaling his car and setting one of the trees with lights on fire. He destroyed one of the balls and damaged another. 

“He wasn’t the brightest bulb at the rotary,” Chapman said. “We can fix the decorations. We want him to make good on restitutions. I’m thankful that no one was hurt.” 

Bartell asked that any businesses or property owners want to join in and add to the festivities and the mood to do it. “That would be wonderful,” Bartell said. “We care enough. It’s more about spirit. People felt like we were losing that community spirit. People really enjoy seeing and being a part of the community.”

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