Each holiday, public works teams throughout McHenry County are put to the task of decorating for the holidays. Here is how much some municipalities are spending and what their process is for setting up lights.
The village of Huntley bought
88 light fixtures this year for $30,800, according to village documents.
But residents have commented on local Facebook groups asking what the light fixtures are depicting.
One user wrote: “OK ... I’ve been trying to figure out what the new lights represent every time I drive down Route 47. Champagne flutes? A modern ‘Christmas Story’ Leg Lamp?”
Another user asked whether the decorations look like Las Vegas or night club decor.
The answer is champagne flutes – 88 of them, each 10 feet tall and 3 feet wide.
Village management assistant Barb Read said the village started by decorating its downtown area and Main Street but wanted to expand along Route 47.
“I’ve gotten so many positive comments regarding the Route 47 fixtures,” Read said. “I know there were several negative ones on Facebook, but the positive ones have way outweighed them. They said it makes us look classy and it helps brighten up the area. The goal is to make our downtown look nice, professional and welcoming.”
The decorations were bought from Artistic Holiday Designs, which designs and sells unique holiday decorations. The flutes were made for a different village, which used them for a year and then had Artistic Holiday Designs create a different style. The original cost for the flutes was $789.12 a flute, but Huntley received them at a sale price of $350 each, according to village documents.
Artistic Holiday Designs also works with Naperville, Park Ridge, Rosemont and New Lenox.
The village is using a three-year lease-to-buy plan, paying $10,266 each year. Installation costs $12,200 the first year and includes installing permanent brackets on all the light poles. In the following year, installation will cost $6,480 a year.
Huntley’s purchase was inspired by positive comments received regarding downtown improvements and special events on the 2017 resident survey, according to village documents.
Huntley spent about $8,000 this year for Main Street decorations, and the village typically spends about $1,000 each year replacing or adding lights for the downtown area, Read said.
The village plans to buy new banners for Route 47 next year, Read said.
The city of Woodstock provides holiday decorations on light poles throughout the downtown area and hires a contractor to string lights on 20 trees in the downtown business district.
The contract to light the trees costs $29,680, and the city provides the lights for the contractor, Public Works Director Jeffrey Van Landuyt said. The lights were bought this year for $14,000.
City employees have strung lights on smaller trees and bushes in the Park in the Square and Sesquicentennial Park. Public Works staff logged about 100 hours on this project alone, Van Landuyt said.
Overall, decorations for the city are managed by the Public Works Department and the Woodstock Opera House.
Van Landuyt said the decorations can stress the trees in the Park in the Square, so the city cuts off the string lights instead of physically unstringing them.
“As a result, we use incandescent string lights on larger trees and cut them off, and then use LED strings on lower [or] smaller trees and bushes and pull them off and reuse them,” Van Landuyt said. “LED string sets cost about 25 percent more than incandescent, and the string lengths of LED are shorter.”
Decorations on light poles have not been replaced in 12 years, and unless the city decides to use a different design, the snowflake decorations should last at least 25 years.
Van Landuyt said decorations help the city showcase the community for visitors, and it’s the city’s hope that visitors look to settle in Woodstock by purchasing a home or starting a business there.
In 2015, the Woodstock Opera House and Old Courthouse and Sheriff’s House were lit for the first time as part of a $170,000 project to replace the old lights on the Square, Woodstock Opera House Managing Director John Scharres said at the time.
Decorations consisting of garland and lighting are placed throughout the downtown area and Virginia Street corridor, Public Works Director Mike Magnuson said.
“One of the big benefits of decorations is that it makes our downtown and corridor very inviting,” Magnuson said. “We get a lot of compliments and get more visitors who are drawn to downtown because of the lights; then they are more likely to stop, eat and shop, so it ends up contributing to our tax base and our revenue.”
The Public Works Department is in charge of installing the decorations. Banners are hung around Virginia Street, and lighting and trees are installed in the downtown area.
“It works out well for us because during this time of year, we are in between roadway and tree-trimming activities in warm months and snow fighting in winter, so we have crews available during our down time,” Magnuson said.
The main cost? Each year, the city replaces lights that aren’t working anymore. Magnuson said the city bought lights over many years, and they are stored in good condition during the offseason, allowing them to last longer.
Each year, Algonquin spends about $500 on decorations by replacing the decorations as needed, Assistant Village Manager Mike Kumbera said.
The village uses in-house crews to install banners and lights.
Decorations include street pole banners, garland and wreaths for the downtown area and the tree at Riverfront Park.
It takes three days for one Public Works crew to install the decorations, Kumbera said.
“A lot of emphasis on our decorations is for the downtown area to be able to create a sense of place in the area and draw patrons into the downtown area,” Kumbera said. “It helps make it special, and we correlate special events we hold, such as the Holiday Rock on the Fox.”