Don’t you love how cities and towns can transform with a few sparkling lights this time of year?
The Downtown Aberdeen Association is busily preparing for Winterfest, Dec. 7-8. And the folks in Montesano are industriously lighting their homes and businesses in preparation for the Festival of Lights, Dec. 13-15.
Those festivals and beautifully lit buildings make things merry and bright and give pride to our communities.
This year, when the hardworking folks from the Hoquiam Beautification Committee looked into storage to examine their holiday decorations, what they found was in “pretty sad shape,” said Lynn Ogren, organizer.
“The wreaths, candy canes and lanterns are some 20 years old and are dirty and missing lights,” she said.
The Beautification Committee, which is responsible for some amazing transformations of Hoquiam this summer by weeding and planting flower beds, creating new planters and updating signs and gardens, also wants to make the city sparkle in the winter.
“We love what McHugh’s Furniture has done by outlining its building in white lights. That’s our inspiration! We want to encourage all the businesses to do that this year,” Lynn said.
While the committee looks to buy new winter decorations for the city in coming years, it hopes to encourage white lights throughout the city this year.
“We plan to wrap the green poles near City Hall and the 7th Street Theatre and other places in the city with lights to add to what the businesses are doing,” Lynn said.
The committee is hoping to begin decorating during the week of Thanksgiving and keep the lights up through February.
“It kind of will lift people’s spirits during those dark days,” Lynn said. “And we also want people to take pride in their city.”
But right now, frankly, money is needed.
While money can’t be given by the city to individual businesses — they will have to decorate on their own or through money given directly to them — the Hoquiam Beautification Committee can use donated money for lights for the poles and other city-owned property.
To donate, write a check to the City of Hoquiam and send to City Hall at 609 Eighth St., Hoquiam, WA 98550. Put “Christmas lights” or “Beautification Committee” in the memo line.
Talk about seeing nearly instant and clear results from your donation!
And while you are at it, support as many community festivals as you can this season by simply showing up!
Are you decorating too?
Speaking of decorating, this is also the time when individuals are decorating their homes.
As far as making your own house safely sparkle, here are our tips for outdoor decorations:
First of all, think about ladder safety. Use a ladder stand-off attachment for all extension ladder use. (We loan them for one-day use from our Cosmo Mill toolbox.)
Use only outdoor lights evaluated by a recognized testing laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL).
Check each set of lights, new or old, for broken or cracked sockets and bulbs, frayed or bare wires, or loose connections. Dispose of any set with damage.
Shut off electrical power when replacing bulbs, and keep it off while putting up outdoor lighting.
Before putting up lights, check each light set by placing it on a nonflammable surface and plugging it in for 10-15 minutes to see that the lights don’t melt or smoke.
Use no more than three standard-size sets of lights per extension cord.
Always use extension cords with a three-prong plug that are approved for outdoor use. Never use indoor extension cords outside.
Avoid standing in water while handling electrical wiring or using power tools.
Use a dry, wooden or fiberglass ladder when hanging holiday lights, to reduce the chance of an electrical shock. Be sure to stay clear of overhead electrical wires.
Waterproof all electrical connections and keep them elevated so that rainwater won’t drain into the connection and possibly cause a shock or short circuit.
For added electric shock protection, plug outdoor electric lights and decorations into outlets protected by ground fault circuit interrupters. Portable outdoor GFCIs can be purchased where electrical supplies are sold.
Fasten outdoor lights securely to trees, walls or other firm supports to protect the lights from wind damage. To hold in place, use only insulated staples (not nails or tacks) that are hammered in. Using a staple gun increases the chance of electrical shock. Or, run strings of lights through hooks. Zip ties or plastic clips work well for lights mounted on gutters.
Turn off all lights when you go to bed or leave the house. The lights could short out and start a fire.
Dave Murnen and Pat Beaty are construction specialists at NeighborWorks of Grays Harbor County, where Murnen is executive director. This is a nonprofit organization committed to creating safe and affordable housing for all residents of Grays Harbor County. For questions about home repair, renting, remodeling or buying, call 360-533-7828 or visit 710 E. Market St. in Aberdeen. Our office is fully ADA-compliant.