One of the region’s most spectacular annual traditions is about to get even bigger.
The display, which features nearly a half-million twinkling LED lights surrounding the city’s downtown square, will now include sidewalk street lamps wrapped with LED lighted garlands on Block Avenue and light pole fixtures that hang over the sidewalks on Dickson Street.
The expansion is part of a plan first adopted by the Fayetteville Advertising and Promotion Commission, who earlier this year earmarked $10,000 for the project.
The city will front the additional $46,500 needed to purchase the lights, but could recoup some of the cost from the state’s General Improvement Fund surplus next month.
Justin Tennant, a Ward 3 alderman and member of the A&P Commission, said extending the lights display should help draw some of the thousands of people who visit the square to Dickson Street and give a revenue boost to the area’s restaurant and shop owners.
“There’s a lot of activity down there in the summer, but in the winter months, some of that activity slows down,” said Tennant. “This will bring more people to the Dickson Street area at a time when maybe the tax base is not as high.”
The light fixtures on Dickson Street will come in three varieties, including red and white colored snowflakes, poinsettias and Razorbacks purchased from Get Lit LLC, a holiday lighting and manufacturing company based in Springdale.
The idea, staff said, was to choose fixtures that were holiday themed, but that were flexible enough to stay up for a month or two after the holiday season ends.
Alderwoman Sarah Marsh said she supported the idea, but suggested the Razorback fixtures be removed from the plan.
“I would really like to see us diversify the appeal of our downtown,” said Marsh. “We have Razorback banners on our lights, a hog carved into an intersection, and every other person is wearing a red Razorback shirt. For those of us who are not sports fans, it can be really alienating.”
Alderman Mark Kinion admitted to being a Razorback fan, but said the state’s iconic flagship university mascot represents more than just a sports team.
“Dickson Street is the gateway into our university,” said Kinion. “If there’s one thing that’s certainly unique about the city of Fayetteville, it’s the heritage of the University of Arkansas.”
Longtime Dickson Street business owner Joe Fennel, who owns Bordinos and is co-owner of Jose’s Mexican Restaurant, said members of a recently formed Dickson Street merchants association are not only in support of the project, but are also considering adding complimentary lights to storefronts to help further expand the display.
“Everybody I’ve spoken to is very, very excited about this,” said Fennel.
As for the Razorback fixtures, Fennel said he understood where Marsh was coming from and welcomed diversifying the appeal in future expansions.
“If we can get this thing off its feet for now, it will drive itself to wherever it wants to go,” he said. “Let’s just get it done.”