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story.lead_photo.caption Visitors admire Christmas lights during the Lighting of the Square event on Nov. 18 at Bentonville Square in Bentonville. The event included pictures with Santa in front of the Walton Five & Dime and bands performing on a main stage before the lighting of the square. - Photo by Charlie Kaijo

'Twas the week before Christmas and all through downtowns, holiday lights twinkled and danced to the trees that they bound.

City officials put them on squares and main streets with care, knowing the area's residents and other guests would soon visit there.

Photo by Andy Shupe
Residents gather Nov. 17 during a lighting ceremony and parade for the 24th annual Lights of the Ozarks display in downtown Fayetteville. The display features more than 400,000 LED lights installed by workers with the city’s Parks and Recreation Department over the course of a combined 3,300 work hours.
Photo by Charlie Kaijo
Guests enjoy the lighting of a large Christmas tree during the second annual Christmas on The Creek on Nov. 25 at Shiloh Square in Springdale. The event included photos with Santa, mini train rides, the lighting of the region’s largest live community Christmas tree and a parade.
Photo by J.T. Wampler
The downtown Rogers holiday display features a lighted Christmas tree that plays cheerful music.

By the numbers

Bentonville^Fayetteville^Rogers^

Springdale

Number of lights: 298,028^450,000^20,000^69,000

Labor hours for installation: 2,485^2,000 plus^NA^NA

Days to install: 10 weeks^six weeks^three days^three weeks

Cost of labor and materials: $103,560^NA^$10,000^NA

Most cities turned on their lights around Thanksgiving and will take them down beginning Jan. 2.

Source: Staff report

"It just brings the community together no matter what the religious base is," said Jason Woodward, director of e-commerce for ChristmasDesigners.com, a professional Christmas decorating company that sells and installs holiday decorations to businesses and municipalities.

It also brings visitors into a city, he added. They often spend money in stores and restaurants increasing the local tax base.

Children's laughter could be heard a few blocks away, as they ran through Bentonville's square at the end of a short winter's day.

Parks and Recreation officials chose the light colors with great care, green for grass, red for tree trunks and white for branches high up in the air.

"They glow," 6-year-old Peyton Smith said with excitement and wide eyes.

Peyton joined his 2-year-old brother, Cayden Tripodi, and his mom, Kristen Tripodi, when they swung by the square after seeing Coco at the Skylight Cinema just a couple blocks south.

Seeing all the lights is one of the best parts of Christmas, Kristen Tripodi said. "It's gorgeous," she said of the square. "My kids lit up, and that makes me light up."

Holiday lights are a common sight in the cities' decoration displays, but they each have their own touch, unique in their own way.

For 20-plus years, Rogers' street light ornamentation has been grass roots, but this year, the city invested $10,000 for a 20,000 light bulb boost.

The lights are in Frisco and Centennial Parks, and the city plans to build on its holiday decorations each year, said Ben Cline, public relations specialist for Rogers. Dressing up downtown provides a sense of civic pride.

"We want people to be proud of where they live," he said. "When we invest in dressing up our downtown, it shows that we're proud of where we live, too."

A large adorned tree stands midway down First Street, giving those meandering downtown a place to meet and greet.

But it's at Springdale's Shiloh Square that stands the tallest tree of them all, covered in ornaments created by community members who heard a call.

The public was invited to bring ornaments to decorate the community tree last year, which was also the first year for the display, but the average-size ornaments disappeared in the 40-foot-tall tree, said Kelly Syer, Downtown Springdale Alliance executive director.

This year the alliance sold 200 large wooden ornaments for $10 each that residents, community groups and school classes could decorate as they wished and placed them on the tree during a holiday kick-off celebration, she said.

"That gave a really lovely opportunity to offer a sense of ownership in the creation of the tree," she said.

Lights on trees and yard ornaments, too, illuminate the view down Emma Avenue.

Gingerbread men, carolers and snowmen alike, the yard ornaments stretch a few blocks by foot or by bike.

Yet, the largest light exhibition in NWA is in the city to the south, officials say.

With 450,000 light bulbs the show makes its mark, best known as Lights of the Ozarks.

Thousands of people will visit the Fayetteville square during the display, so many so restaurants stay busy to keep them at bay.

"It's kind of become a tradition for many to go see the lights, come eat pizza and drink beer," said John Schmuecker, owner of Tiny Tim's Pizza and West Mountain Brewing Co. on the square.

Schmuecker says nearly half his 40-member staff works each night to keep up with business, which about doubles during the Lights of the Ozarks. Last year, he said, the restaurant went through 3,500 pounds of cheese, enough to fill the main dining room up to a person's knees.

Carriage, camel and pony rides are attractions offered outside. Hot chocolate steam rises from cups and festive music keeps the holiday vibe up.

Though the displays are different, their message is the same, to share holiday cheer for all that came.

They welcome all and so says their bright lights, "Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and to all a goodnight."

NW News on 12/24/2017

Print Headline: Lights brighten the holiday season

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