Brick Bats Reportage

Dim These Bulbs?

The Demzette reported Monday that the downtown Fayetteville annual Christmas lights this year cost $93,884. The little city foresees budget problems in 2008, and this certainly looks expendable.

Of course it is. Twinkly lights as opposed to road repair and police patrols? It’s a wonder it’s lasted this long without being privately funded by donors, charities or the businesses it directly benefits. Or just the local Chamber of Commerce. Little Rock has had its Super Elf, Jennings Osborne; we might find one or 25 Sugar Elves at the end of some of our Ozark rainbows.

That near-$100,000 price is disturbing; could this be made more cost-efficient? The number sounds inclusive, including portions of municipal employee salaries while they’re on the ladders. But I keep thinking of an old article about Osborne where he said he buys new lights every year because it’s cheaper than taking them down and coiling them carefully. You think your house is in a fix the week after Christmas? Multiply that a few thousand times.

This might not sit well in Fayetteville. We’re green, and this sounds wasteful — the wires and the little glass bulbs all going in the trash. But if you think of all of the labor hours, where the workers instead would be neatening the parks and filling pot holes, not to mention how cheap this hardware is — isn’t it nuts you can buy hundred of lights for the house for under $10? — the logic begins to shine.

If you’re really looking at environmental logic, though, we’d never have the lights up in the first place. This is tree-hugging Fayetteville, after all. Yet you don’t hear complaints from the Sierras about energy waste this time of year. Maybe they pick their battles.

Last year I dropped by the six weeks of lights just once, at the First Night celebration on Dec. 31 hours before they were turned off. They’re much too delightful to see just once so I resolved to increase my visits.

So My Beloved and I walked around the twinkly square last night. The horse-and-carriage rides were there, and this year a camel was available for short rides with photo opportunities. The spot for the tethered circular pony rides for young children was set but not open on this evening, just a week before Christmas.

For a reason. No crowds. One would hope the city is tabulating this, but in past years the sidewalks between about 7 and 9 p.m. is fairly crowded. Vehicles of folks who want the lights without shivering in the cold line up for a block or two before entering the Square to circle it a time or two, slowly. I parked a block away presuming the driving and walking crowds; I didn’t need to. Those on foot probably numbered 10 to 20 on each of the four sides of the square, and car traffic a bit heavier than it would have been at 7:30 p.m. in August.

This was a Monday night, not a weekend, or whenever a crowd would have poured in and stayed. MB noted, though, this is the week before Christmas, and we’ve come by at this time in years past to find teeming teeth-chatterers as older folks waves from their cars once the queue let them drive around the Square.

Is the bloom off this promotion? -30-

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