Sarah Stultz: It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas

Published 10:00 pm Monday, September 24, 2018

Sarah Stultz is the managing editor of the Tribune. Her column appears every Tuesday.

Last Christmas season, I came across a Facebook post with dozens, if not hundreds, of people expressing their dismay about Albert Lea’s downtown Christmas lights.

The post included pictures of the downtown in previous eras, comments of people talking about lights in other communities and mostly remarks from both current and former Albert Leans complaining that the city needed to step up its game.

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Several of the people said they were upset the city’s lights were nothing like they were from the past. Others asked what had happened to our community’s Christmas spirit.

The post, like others I find with people complaining about one thing or another, disappointed me initially.

The more I read it, I got a little frustrated — frustrated that with a clear need existing, all most people wanted to do was sit and complain.

I don’t disagree: Albert Lea does need a little more Christmas spirit by way of decorations, but I knew that sitting around and grumbling about something wasn’t going to change anything.

Motivated to make change, I joined a group of residents  in January who came together to raise money for new lights and decorations for the downtown.

During the first month or two, we sat down with catalogs and representatives from vendors, looked at options for holiday lights and decorations, and then picked what we would like to raise money for.

We decided to go with a traditional feel, with wreaths on the lampposts, garland across a few intersections, lights at the Fountain Lake gazebo, structures with lights simulating a fountain at the splash pad, along with snowflakes nearby on North Broadway. Lastly, if the campaign went really well, we would try for lights on all of the downtown trees.

At the end of the day, the total bill for what we envisioned would cost about $75,000.

Remembering all the comments online and people who wanted an upgrade, I thought raising that $75,000 would be easy. Just doing a little simple math, that would only be about $4 for each person if all of Albert Lea’s approximately 18,000 residents split the cost.

Though there have been many generous people who have contributed to our campaign, it has been a little more challenging than I thought it would be. We still have a little more than two-thirds of the money to raise.

We have written grants, reached out to businesses, given presentations to service clubs and organized two burger basket nights and a bingo fundraiser at Wind Down Wednesday. We had another event planned with Albert Lea native Marion Ross, but unfortunately had to cancel the event due to low ticket sales. We have another burger basket fundraiser in the works and are considering a wine tasting event.

We hope the community will show its support as we head into the holiday season.

Anyone who donates $250 or more will have their name printed on one of the new holiday banners.

I think this is an exciting opportunity to be a part of a long-lasting project in our community. Consider even getting your children involved, as this would be a great project to help them learn pride in their community.