Monday, December 17, 2007

Lights of the Ozarks, A Community Opportunity

The other cities in NW Arkansas must be laughing at Fayetteville.
Springdale show at Murphy Park, where there are 20 static displays and 187 decorated trees. The Public Works Department budgets $ 25, 000 for the annual display.
Bentonville, which like Fayetteville boasts a traditional town square, doesn’t have a budget for Christmas lights. Instead, its downtown lights are paid for through private sponsors. Employees in the Bentonville Parks Department hang and dismantle the lights, but they aren’t paid extra to do so.
Main Street Rogers, a branch of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, handles the city’s annual downtown display through donations. The Rogers Street Department provides the labor needed to hang the lights. "There is no large contributor to the lights display," said Marge Wolf, president of Main Street Rogers. "It’s a community effort. As the money comes in, we spend it. There is no strict budget for lights."

Fayetteville is spending $93,884 for the lights and the other cities are paying far less for their displays. Fayetteville needs to follow the example of Rogers and Bentonville. If the Lights of the Ozarks are so important to the business community and the general public, they should be willing to donate some money to it. Actually, I like what Marge Wolf said. As people from the public donate they would own a part of the display and they become part of a community. As they would walk among the lights they would think "I made this happen."
Instead of crying over the city threatening to cut the Lights from the budget, the citizens of Fayetteville need to recognize that this is an opportunity to shine. A tradition needn't die because people can step up and keep it going.


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