Let there be lights

Christmas kingpin Ted Peterson likes to run his business with a light touch.

 

Mr. Peterson, the president of Downtown Decorations, the firm responsible for decking downtown's halls for The Augusta Chronicle Christmas Light-Up Spectacular on Saturday, said being the guy who gives a downtown district such as Augusta's a little yuletide shimmer is about more than merely spreading seasonal cheer. It's also about redeveloping downtowns and re-establishing holiday traditions.

"A lot of cities are really trying to redevelop their downtown," Mr. Peterson said in a recent telephone interview from the Downtown Decoration offices in Syracuse, N.Y. "People want to rediscover their downtown. They want to rediscover the things they experienced as kids."

Christmas lights are an excellent first step, he said. Augusta's new decorations, recalling the stately simplicity of a Victorian Christmas, were developed with what he said was the spirit of the city in mind.

"I think of Augusta as a very elegant Southern town," said Mr. Peterson, who visited the city several times before the design was completed. "That's the look we tried to achieve. We wanted it to be upscale, and we wanted a classic look that would go with those beautiful Broad Street buildings and charm."

Broad Street and Laney-Walker Boulevard have been bedecked with miles of pine garland and twinkling white lights. Mr. Peterson said the plan is to extend the decorations into other areas of downtown in coming years.

Each city presents unique challenges to Mr. Peterson's crews. In Augusta, it was an eclectic collection of light fixtures. He said there were no fewer than four styles of street lamps that had to be wrapped and decorated, while maintaining a sense of continuity.

Transforming downtown Augusta into a well-lighted wonderland proved to be labor-intensive. He said both a local contractor and city workers were pressed into service, in addition to Downtown Decorations technicians who came into town last week for final adjustments and installations.

"We'd love to have it so it happens in one night, just like Christmas," he said with a laugh. "But that's just not possible."

Mr. Peterson acknowledged that his job means mixing skill sets. Lighting a downtown district is about more than a pretty design and hanging strands of lights. Traffic sight-lines and power, for instance, need to be taken into account. He said he can't imagine finding that same satisfaction in another career.

"I really enjoy this business," he said. "It's fulfilling because you are providing solutions and maybe helping a downtown."

"Besides, nobody hates the Christmas man."

Reach Steven Uhles at (706) 823-3626 or steven.uhles@augustachronicle.com.

LIGHTEN UP

WHAT: The Augusta Chronicle Christmas Light-Up Spectacular

WHEN: 6 p.m. Saturday

WHERE: Augusta Common, 800 block downtown between Broad and Reynolds streets

COST: Free

BY THE NUMBERS

The new downtown Christmas decorations include:

- Nearly 13 miles of lights

- 45,000 bulbs

- More than 500 new decorations

- Custom-designed decorations at the Broad Street fountain and the James Brown statue

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