Asst. to Editor
Altus’ “Christmas in the Park” is a traditional light display like those held by cities and towns across the nation. Look up the term “Christmas in the Park” and many other municipal Christmas celebrations pop up from Kansas to California. However, the Altus City Council will discuss whether or not the City of Altus should continue the “Christmas in the Park” tradition at the Tuesday, Sept. 4 meeting at 6:30 p.m.
Modern Christmas lighting grew out of the 18th century German tradition of placing candles on Christmas trees. Folklore attributes that custom to Martin Luther, the originator of the Protestant faith. Martin had been out walking in the woods and marveled at the effect of the twinkly stars peeking out around the edges of the little fir trees. Custom says he cut down a small tree in hopes of duplicating the same effect for his family. Enlisting his wife to help, he set up the tree behind the parlor doors and they delighted their children with the first candle-lit Christmas tree. In 1832, England’s Queen Victoria helped popularize the Christmas tree by having two trees bedecked with candles and sugar ornaments.
Very early electric lights for the Christmas tree were invented in the 1880’s, according to Wikipedia. Edward Johnson, an associate of Thomas Edison and a Vice President of Edison Electric Light Company, made the first strand of electric lights. Johnson, regarded the father of modern Christmas lighting, hand-fashioned an 80-light strand of red, white and blue bulbs for his tree in 1882. The first White House Christmas tree was lit by electric lights in 1895, when President Grover Cleveland did the honors of lighting the tree. Many businesses started using Christmas lights around 1900, but most people couldn’t afford them until the 1940’s. Large city displays became popular in the 1950’s. Interestingly, the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree didn’t have electric lights until 1956.
What began as a volunteer effort in 1993, the City of Altus has been sponsoring this Christmas tradition since 1996. Over the years, they’ve gradually added to the light displays. When Duncan eliminated their “Trail of Lights”, Altus picked up their mile-long display inventory for just a small investment. That expanded the Christmas in the Park even across Broadway and Park Avenue. Forty pedestals and underground wiring were added for these new animated displays.
The City of Altus web site shows this beautiful photo taken in 2002, and explains some of the benefits of “Christmas in the Park”: “Altus continues to experience increases in tax revenue from the previous year for the month of December. Altus gained state-wide recognition by winning the ‘Keep Oklahoma Beautiful Award’ for governmental projects the first season we had ‘Christmas in the Park’. Continues to demonstrate what a community can do when it pulls together, bringing civic pride throughout the City of Altus.”
Many cities, like Duncan, have explored the idea of cutting back on holiday displays. Now it’s Altus’ turn to consider this issue. Maybe it’s time to return to the spirit that launched “Christmas in the Park”, volunteerism. It was through the kindness of service organizations, businesses and families that this tradition came to Altus.
City’s involvement in ‘Christmas in the Park’
The Altus Municipal Authority (AMA) and City Council will meet in the Council Chambers on Tuesday, Sept. 4 at 6:30 p.m. During both meetings there will be discussion regarding the reconstruction of North Park Lane and Falcon Road.
The City Council will consider voting to move the executive session to follow shortly after the Council Consent Agenda, very early in the meeting.
Items to be considered in the Council meeting will include whether to reinstate the “Comments from the Audience” during the meetings and to set criteria for those comments if reinstated. They will consider discontinuing “Christmas in the Park”, due to vandalism and increased costs. The Council will also consider employing a City Engineer.
In executive session, the Council will receive information regarding a pending EEOC complaint against the City of Altus. It was filed by Marinda S. Ingram. The Council may vote in open session to waive the attorney client privilege for Scott Wood, an attorney hired by OMAG, the City’s insurance carrier, as to the July 21 Dan Scott hearing.