Cities and Business District Trying to Brighten the Mood With Holiday Lights

LEAVE THE LIGHTS ON: Despite concerns for light pollution, some municipalities and public spaces have gotten a jump on the holiday season in terms of stringing up the lights.

While no one in the world needs reminding of the pandemic-induced trials and tribulations of the past nine months, nor of the daunting outlook for 2020’s finale and the start of the new year, some are using outdoor lighting to brighten up the mood. No longer delegated big-box stores and shopping malls, the “Christmas creep,” as in the pre-Thanksgiving all-out holiday decorating, has taken hold in more remote locales.

To trumpet its “23 Days of Flatiron Cheer,” the Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership Business Improvement District has unveiled “Points of Action,” a public art installation by Studio Cooke John. Located on the Flatiron Public Plaza, the installation encourages shoppers and passersby to stop and step under one of the illuminated sculptural pieces to view others doing the same from a distance. The attraction is meant to be a gateway to the area’s 400-plus stores, restaurants and businesses and the Open Streets program, according to the local BID’s executive director James Mettham.

Another shopping destination in Manhattan, Brookfield Place, has launched Luminaries, light shows designed by the LAB at Rockwell Group. Hundreds of colorful lanterns have been suspended among the plants in the Winter Garden there. Contactless wishing stations will allow visitors to send a motion-activated wish to the lanterns above, prompting a display of vibrant lights.

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On Nov. 16, the Harlem Holiday Lights was kicked off by the 125th Street Business Improvement District and two local community boards. The star-shaped and other illuminated holiday motifs will be on view through New Year’s Eve.

On Friday, Downtown Palm Beach Gardens will launch a Holiday Light Show that will run hourly through the end of December. To help local business owners in Stillwater, Minn., attract a little more attention, a substantial lighting display is being set up as a tourist attraction. Visitors will be able to walk through a multicolored LED light display as part of “Wintertime in Stillwater.”

Less-populated areas are also getting in on the trend. After canceling its annual Festival of Lights, the Bangor Rotary in northern Maine is holding a storefront decoration contest with downtown merchants, and the city’s 39-foot balsam fir is being put up and illuminated 10 days earlier than normal. This year the investment is also being amped up. In a more individualized, and business-minded approach, Walmart is offering free holiday tree delivery to shoppers’ doorsteps. Through a partnership with the online handyman resource, Handy, the mass chain is offering a light installation service.

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