New Haven makes plans to upgrade city’s holiday decorations

New Haven Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Charlie Hatton listed ideas on a flip chart for upgrading the city’s 2018 Christmas decorations. Approximately 20 people at the meeting in the New Haven Community Center proposed ideas to finance the project. (By Rod King for The News-Sentinel)

Ideas were flowing at New Haven Community Center Tuesday evening from citizens proposing ways to finance new Christmas decorations for the city’s main thoroughfare on Broadway. They had responded to a general invitation from city council president Steve McMichael to attend an open house event called “I Love New Haven,” fueled by phone calls and Facebook comments to the City Council concerning the old and tired looking decorations this past holiday season was the impetus for the meeting.

Jane Patton came armed with costs of decorations that could be placed on the 73 light poles in downtown. A 3×3-foot snowflake and a similar size star could be purchased from G.P Design in Marion for $255 and $185, respectively. She also suggested that tube lighting on the buildings would go a long way towards brightening downtown and making it more appealing.

Mike Clendenen, superintendent of the New Haven Adams Township Parks & Recreation Department estimated the cost to decorate all the poles could range from $18,000 to $20,000. He added that it might be something that could be done in phases. Perhaps start with every other pole. He proposed that some members of the audience join him on a field trip to decoration manufacturers in Marion and/or Warsaw to learn if price breaks would be available for a bulk purchase.

Dennis Schebig, a member of Lodge 740 F&AM, suggested the Masonic Lodge would be happy to handle the food preparation for several sausage and pancake breakfasts to help raise funds to purchase new decorations. Others added that a day-long Christmas fundraising breakfast and dinner with family activities in between would be great for May, July and September. It was also proposed to combine it with the Fire Department Muster in Schnelker Park or the annual car show or both.

At that point, attorney Douglas Runyan stated his concerns about the sustainability of conducting continual fundraising activities. He pointed out that over a period of years interest begins to wane and once pride is gone the tendency is to go downhill. “To make this work, funding from the city is required. They need to make a commitment in order to make it work.”

Council president McMichael said that the city has indeed committed $2,000 a year and the assistance of the Parks & Recreation Department to install, remove and maintain the decorations. Clendenen said that if new decorations are purchased his crew would make sure they are installed. The Adams Township office, which is occupying the former Parks & Recreation building on Hartzell Street, has offered to store the new decorations. Runyon said he would pay for a lighted skyline wreath/streamer to be hung across Broadway.

Additional suggestions included replacing the “Charlie Brown” artificial Christmas tree in Canal Landing Park on Broadway with a live tree, putting up a nativity scene in the park or the lot to the north, putting rope lights on the buildings, lighting trees in Schnelker Park and having a couple of the new decorations on display in a booth at Canal Days in hopes that people might consider donating to make New Haven a Christmas showplace.

The meeting closed with Craig Dellinger of the New Haven Foundation offering to handle all the donations which he pointed out would be tax deductible. McMichael offered the parking lot at his Imagine Real Estate office on Lincoln Highway between Little Caesars Pizza and the Speedway Gas Station for some sort of Christmas display. Chris Kimbel agreed to handle the I Love New Haven Facebook page and several people volunteered for the field trip to the Christmas decoration manufacturers.

McMichael closed the meeting by thanking everyone for coming and saying they would be apprised of a second meeting in four to six weeks to come up with an operating budget, discuss the price of decorations and make choices. He added that he was excited to look forward to making improvements in next season’s holiday decorations.