Morning Sun
  • It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas

  • Imagine putting up all those thousands of feet of beautiful  Christmas decorations spanning downtown Broadway every holiday season, then finding there’s a red light bulb out at  Sixth Street,  or a blue one dark at Fourth and Broadway.

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  • Imagine putting up all those thousands of feet of beautiful Christmas decorations spanning downtown Broadway every holiday season, then finding there’s a red light bulb out at Sixth Street, or a blue one dark at Fourth and Broadway.
    Joe Adams, assisted by Dennis Kay, are doing their best to see that doesn’t happen. On Saturday they were giving the lights a final inspection, stringing up each streamer, plugging in the lights, then walking the 60-foot length of the streamer to check if any bulbs are dead.
    This is the last chance to catch problems, because the decorations will be hung on Monday, with formal lighting on Dec. 3.
    “Joe is our only paid employee,” said Patrick O’Bryan, director of the Pittsburg Christmas Decorations Council.
    He noted that Pittsburg’s Christmas lights tradition goes back at least 60 years.
    “It was instigated by a number of Pittsburg businessmen, now all passed away,” O’Bryan said. “Then it went to Bob Lyerla, who was in charge of the decorations for probably 45 years or so.”
    Lyerla, a staunch advocate of downtown Pittsburg, had to overcome numerous challenges to keep the Christmas lights going.
    O’Bryan, who took over after Lyerla’s death 10 years ago, said that one big problem was finding a place to store the decorations for all the months that they weren’t in use.
    “When Bob was doing this, he’d have a warehouse somebody would let us use, then they’d want it back and we’d have to move,” he said. “We kept the decorations in cardboard boxes which would get wet during putting up the lights and removal, so we were continually having to buy new boxes.”
    Now the City of Pittsburg allows the lights to be stored in a warehouse at Atkinson Municipal Airport, and Leisure Time Products bought plastic bins to keep the lights in.
    Maintaining them is almost a year-round job, and is not cheap.
    “Each year we have to refurbish the tinsel and replace light bulbs,” O’Bryan said. “We spend $5,000 to $6,000 every year. It depends on if we have to buy new garlands for the center. Some years we may spend twice that amount.”
    The center garlands formerly featured silver stars, but now have snowflakes with LED lights.
    “Bob tried to get the stars replaced, but he couldn’t find anybody to make them, so we went with the snowflakes,” O’Bryan said.
    Adams, a former City of Pittsburg employee, said he took over working on the lights about three or four years ago.
    “I used to help another guy, then he quit and I took over,” he said.
    His helper, Dennis Kay, said that they started working on the lights in April, then quit for a while because it got to hot.
    Page 2 of 2 - “We started back up again after Labor Day, when it cooled off a little,” Kay said.
    It may seem like a tedious job, but they enjoy the work.
    “I’m not saying we have a party out here, but we have fun,” Adams said.
    The City of Pittsburg and Westar put the lights up and take them down every year.
    “This is a private venture, but we couldn’t do it without the city and Westar,” O’Bryan said.
    He stressed that the lights are made possible by private donors.
    “Several families have decided to fund it substantially, but we do still need small donors,” O’Bryan said. “That’s what makes this a community project.”
    Memorial donations in honor of Lyerla went to created an endowed fund through the Community Foundation of Southeast Kansas for the purpose of financing the Christmas decorations.
    “It’s a 501(c)(3), so donations are tax-deductible and this helps a lot,” O’Bryan said.
    Donations may be sent to P.O. Box 1448, Pittsburg, Kan., 66762. Checks should be made payable to the Community Foundation of Southeast Kansas, with Christmas decorations written in the memo line.

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