A Brighter Christmas: Merchants Association Working to Raise Money for Lighting Up Downtown

By on October 15, 2015
Shown (left to right) are Jim Brown, Josh Herdman, David Boland and Cindy Mellinger, all members of the Christmas Committee, holding one of the banners displayed around town promoting their efforts to raise money to ‘save the Christmas lights.’

Shown (left to right) are Jim Brown, Josh Herdman, David Boland and Cindy Mellinger, all members of the
Christmas Committee, holding one of the banners displayed around town promoting their efforts to raise
money to ‘save the Christmas lights.’

Bringing Christmas back to downtown Ephrata. That is the goal of the Ephrata Merchants Association as they work to raise $17,000 to light-up the downtown.

“And along with that, as we bring the downtown back to what it was a couple years ago, the merchants are really expanding the whole celebration, bringing Christmas back to a tradition,” said David Boland, co-chairman of the Christmas committee. The tree lighting and Santa’s arrival is set for Nov. 27.

And to do that, the Adopt-A-Wreath or Tree program is back.

“Everyone loves the downtown Christmas,” Cindy Mellinger, a member of the Christmas committee, said. “It’s been going on for 50-some years. People love the lights on the trees and the wreaths, however, with all of that, comes expense. We have to raise $15,000-17,000 to put on the project.”

There are plans to purchase 70,000 new lights.

“This year we did our due diligence in shopping for lights and went with the company that supplies the lights for Longwood Gardens in Lancaster City,” Boland said. “It’s a LED diode that has almost the color tone of a bullet light. Really the color tone of an incandescent light. They have really improved.”

Plans also include 240 wreaths – 36 of which are being replaced. And lighting 44 trees.

“It takes tons of volunteers for this to happen,” Boland said, “from the sorting and fluffing of the wreaths to the fixing of the bows and the hanging of the them.”

There are also plans to replace 120 bows on the wreaths this year, Boland.

The borough also helps with the decorations, with putting them up, and taking them down, Jim Brown, co-chairman of the Christmas committee, said. Last year, they even helped with the tree.

“This is why we need a call to action now. We need the community’s help,” Mellinger said. “We are hoping to put the lights into a rotation (for replacement), but this year it’s so important to continue the Adopt-A-Wreath and Tree program, to continue to expand the program. Maybe someday this can be a two-day event.”

Christmas in Ephrata has a long history that began in 1953.

Brown said the celebration first began in the front yard of a house on Main Street with a normal-sized Christmas tree that moved around to different locations.

“The location kind of got cemented when Ephrata National Bank put an addition on their building in 1981 and they made accommodations for the town Christmas tree at that time,” he said. “It has since stayed there.”

Boland said that many in the community may not realize that the borough is not responsible for the tree or any of the decorations in town.

“They (the borough) do the banner,” he said, “but as for the all the wreaths, the Christmas tree, all the lights, the power for the lights and the tree, that is all supplied through the merchants. The merchants pay for most of the expenses.”

Boland said in the 1990s, the town lamp posts were decorated by large ornaments, such as candy canes, when it was decided to make the change over to the lights on the trees. That is when the Adopt-A-Tree program was started, he said. Over the years it was expanded, from Main Street, to State Street.

Boland said five years ago, those lights needed to be replaced and the borough requested the lights be switched to LED because of the cost. He said the borough does supply the power for the trees and wreaths.

The borough agreed to contribute $10,000 toward the cost of the new lights and the merchants paid the difference, Brown said. However, they were first generation LED lights, and had a short lifespan, which no one realized.

“Each year the lights went up, they got dimmer and dimmer, until two years ago, there was no ‘wow’ factor,” Boland said. “The drivers that worked the LED diode had worn out and didn’t put power out to the lights.”

“The borough began looking for alternatives to getting rid of the lights because it was so labor intensive and they thought maybe there was a better idea,” Boland said. “When that news got out, a lot of flack came back.”

“The message came back loud and clear,” Brown said. “The community said, ‘We like the idea of all the wreaths and trees.’ It came back from every direction.”

Boland said since they met with borough council too late last year to do anything, they could not put anything in the budget.

“So our only option was to use every set of lights and condense them on the trees and one block area downtown,” he said. “That did not go over well.”

“We took a lot of grief for that,” Brown said.

Now plans are in full swing to bring the downtown back.

“We asked the borough for $5,000 and they gave us $2,000,” Boland said.

“We are working very hard to raise money,” Boland said. “We are trying to get our craft festival back. We have a new chairperson. Art of Recycle took that over and expanded it by about 40 vendors and give it a new twist.”

They also added the Deck Crawl, the Veteran Banner Program, and the Jingle Bell tour has been expanded.

“We would like to see Christmas in Ephrata be a destination,” Mellinger said. “Bring your children to see Santa Claus.”

“It is the greatest reward, it’s a ton of work, but to see that child just in awe,” Brown said of the event.

“We want this to be about family and community,” Mellinger said.

If you are interested in the Adopt-A-Tree or Wreath program, sponsorship applications are available at ephratachristmas.com. There are several sponsorship levels.

Laser Light Show Sponsorship: $2,500

Premiere recognition as the presenting sponsor of the Laser Light Show

Company logo displayed prominently on event banner

Premiere Recognition as presenting sponsor of Santa at the Train Station entire month of December

Large Company Logo displayed on evening program, EphrataChristmas.com and Event Sponsor

Social Media acknowledgments and newspaper advertising including, The Shopping News and Ephrata Review

Gold Star; $1,500

Recognition as sponsor of Santa at the Train Station the entire month of December

Large company logo displayed on event banner (Logo in Gold Star Category)

Company logo displayed on evening program, EphrataChristmas.com and event poster

Social media acknowledgments and newspaper advertising including, The Shopping News and Ephrata Review

Silver Bell; $1,000

Company logo displayed on event banner (Logo in Silver Bell Category)

Company logo displayed on evening program, EphrataChristmas.com and event poster

Wreath and tree adoption

Bronze Belsnickel; $500

Company name on event banner (Name in Bronze Belsnickel Category)

Name listed on evening program, EphrataChristmas.com and event poster

Wreath adoption

Santa’s Helper; $250

Wreath and Tree adoption

Name listed in evening program and listed on EphrataChristmas.com

Street Tree; $125

Wreath; $35¶

Shown (left to right) are Jim Brown, Josh Herdman, David Boland and Cindy Mellinger, all members of the Christmas Committee, holding one of the banners displayed around town promoting their efforts to raise money to ‘save the Christmas lights.’

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One Comment

  1. Robert Wasneuski

    October 16, 2015 at 1:10 am

    Applaud your efforts….See my message as respects Xmas lights $ 1,000.00 pledge if boro releases me from bondage & allows me my legislated right of choice… It’s that simple if people really care….God bless this nation for its foundation & hopefully it’s perpetuation…

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