Johnson City Lights Spectacular’s future is dim without new volunteers, funding
STAFF WRITER JENNIFER FIERRO
JOHNSON CITY — It’s hard to believe, but there’s a chance Johnson City will be turning off Lights Spectacular, the event that celebrates the holiday season from late November through New Year’s Day.
Johnson City Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center president Lon Yaeger confirmed the organization is looking at alternatives to ensure the Christmas lights display happens this year and in the future.
Yaeger wrote a letter imploring people who have an interest in seeing the event continue to email firstname.lastname@example.org to find out how they can help.
“We’ve run out of volunteers willing to help,” he wrote. “So much that it looks like there’s a distinct possibility that future Lights Spectacular events might not happen.”
Each year, volunteers string thousands of lights on the historic Blanco County courthouse in Johnson City as well as decorate the community park. The displays, along with the nearby Pedernales Electric Cooperative headquarter’s lighted grounds, brighten Christmas spirits for residents and visitors alike.
Yaeger has spent a lot of time with the event’s volunteer board, which is comprised of people who’ve been decorating the courthouse for 20 years.
“It caught up with them,” he said about the seasonal workload.
He noted one volunteer, in particular, who has taken on the bulk of the responsibility of decorating for Lights Spectacular the past two decades.
“That person doesn’t want to do it anymore,” Yaeger said. “This person is pretty much on call the whole time and spends a lot of time making sure everything is working right.”
With a lot of time spent working with nonprofits, the chamber president knows the pressure volunteers feel to ensure the community gets a top-notch product. The biggest benefit of using volunteers is free labor, but if a volunteer is sick, called away unexpectedly, or has an appointment elsewhere, those personal obligations come before Lights Spectacular, which is understandable, Yaeger said.
The preference of chamber leaders is to raise money to hire a company to decorate the courthouse. Though the chamber is the lead organizer of the event, it doesn’t have the funding to pay for an outside company, according to the release.
“We’re trying to get bids from vendors, from the people who do the PEC headquarters,” Yaeger said.
Because the courthouse is historical, workers cannot nail or screw anything into the building, which is another challenge.
The chamber hopes new people step forward with ideas for fundraising, donations, and anything else to ensure Lights Spectacular continues. Chamber officials say keeping the courthouse aglow during the Christmas holiday not only brings joy to residents and visitors, it also has economic benefits.
People who come to Johnson City to see the Christmas lights often stop at local restaurants to eat, shop at the city’s stores, or simply top off their gas tanks before heading home.
The additional revenue to the city helps everyone, Yaeger said.
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