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River lighting program avoids scrap heap

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Posted: Wednesday, November 29, 2017 12:00 pm

Bandera is about to hold its annual Christmas celebration featuring a parade down Main Street, Christmas carols and longer hours for downtown shopping but the lights that normally are put up along the Medina River won’t twinkle quite so brightly this year.

The Bandera Business Association which puts on the city’s Christmas extravaganza each year had cut out funding for the holiday lights along the river to save money for other projects that it believed would provide a bigger boost to tourism.

But when word of that decision got out, some residents were outraged if their comments on a Facebook chat site were accurate.

City officials, including Bandera City Councilwoman Lynn Palmer, stepped in earlier this week to see that business association Christmas lights that were going unused could be set up near the flagpole at the north end of Bandera City Park so some of the holiday finery could remain in the park this year.

Palmer said she was disappointed by the decision to cut funding for the lights on the river at first because she is a sponsor of that event and a member of the business association and felt she should have been told the program was losing its funding before finding out about it on her own.

After hearing the BBA’s explanation for the decision, Palmer said she understood why the funding was cut but did not give up on finding an alternate way to get lights to the park.  When the business association allowed the city to use BBA decorations that had been left in storage this year and the city agreed to install the decorations at the park without charging the association, the problem seemed to be resolved.

“I’m fine with everything now,” said Palmer. “It’s all going to work out. . . I feel like it will be a good celebration this year.”

Julie Conrad, president of the business association, said she did not want to cut funding for the river lights but decided it was unavoidable to keep the association financially sound and to finance other projects that member businesses said they wanted to see.

The association lost $9,000 on the Christmas celebration last year and anticipated less revenue to spend this year, so Conrad decided to reduce the amount the association spends on Christmas lighting drastically this year.  That’s what left the lights along the river program without funds.

Conrad is pleased with the compromise that has been worked out to get some lights to the river again and hopes she can find more volunteers to work on the river lighting project next year so much of that program can be restored.

City Administrator Linda Coones said she was saddened to see that the river lights will be smaller this year than in years past, and she plans to start talking to stakeholders soon to see that more lights get to the park next year.

The river lighting program was only a part of the holiday festivities that the business association will put on around downtown Bandera on Friday and Saturday, Dec. 1 and 2.

The courthouse grounds will come alive with Christmas music, a living nativity from students at Pipe Creek Christian School and other Christmas activities beginning at 4:30 p.m. on Friday.  Merchants also plan to stay open later on Friday and to offer shoppers holiday treats while they’re out.

Shoppers also will have a chance to win cash in a prize drawing on Saturday, Dec. 2, at 4 p.m. if they have tickets to enter in the drawing.  Shoppers can get a ticket for each $10 spent at participating merchants during the celebration.

Saturday at 11 a.m. is the time that the association will hold its Christmas Parade down Main St.

That parade was moved from a nighttime schedule because merchants felt that event hurt their business.

The new time for the parade also has triggered some criticism but not as much as the cutback in the river lighting program, Conrad said.

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