Members of the New Paltz Community Improvement Team (CIT) have stars in their eyes — or maybe snowflakes, or wreaths, or candles, or some other icon of the coming wintry economic activity. They hope to leverage their remaining budgeted funds into laying the groundwork for local decorations that will be resilient, sustainable, attractive and welcoming. They have set their sights on creating a “Night of a Thousand Lights” on December 3, coordinating multiple tree-lighting ceremonies with other downtown decorations being sparked for the first time.
The CIT falls under the town umbrella these days, but this is a group of volunteers that has pitched in to alter landscapes and pretty up around the village center for decades. Town Board member Alex Baer has been working closely with the team and hopes that this effort also will get younger volunteers to help out; however, the group’s monthly meetings are at 8 a.m. on a weekday, which may be a barrier to recruiting anyone with a 9-5 job.
Baer attended the Village Board meeting last week looking for money. The Night of a Thousand Lights will include the lighting of holiday trees at the library and on Huguenot Street along with events at One Epic Place and Water Street Market, but the new Main Street decorations are meant to tie it all together. There’s no longer any way to plug in on the utility poles, as there was in decades past; that’s why solar decor is being eyed. The hope is to purchase quality materials that will last multiple years. But after paying for flowers and flags and watering during the summer, there’s only $1,200 left to spend. To get decorations including greenery and permanent displays for about 40 poles will cost about $10,000.
In deference to the diverse population of New Paltz and the variety of holidays that occur during the darkest days of the year, designs are being selected with an eye on making them “multi-religious,” Baer said. One obstacle — getting feedback from leaders of one of the local Jewish temples — may have been resolved simply because a board member from that temple happened to be in attendance at this meeting. During the discussion among trustees about the request, the term that was used was “non-denominational,” not “multi-religious;” Stana Weisburd and Michele Zipp expressed an explicit preference in non-denominational decorations such as snowflakes.
As Baer wasn’t able to stay for the full discussion, trustees were left to consider a request for $1,200 toward the full amount, as well as the understanding that the full plan may be too ambitious to complete in one year. There’s already been private donations of $750 on top of the $1,200 budgeted from town funds, which is a fifth of the expected $10,000 expense. While questions about whether wreaths and greenery fit the trustees’ idea of “non-denominational” decorations, they ultimately agreed to provide $2,500 for this effort.
“We have the money,” said Mayor Tim Rogers, who suggested that public works superintendent Bleu Terwilliger would also be supportive, as the superintendent is a big fan of Christmas in particular. Since the application to hang items on Central Hudson-owned poles goes through Terwilliger’s department, that bodes well for these festive new decorations to be on display this year.