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Park’s Christmas lights could shine again

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Posted: Wednesday, October 10, 2018 2:03 pm

After a year of nearly being blacked out, the Christmas lights extravaganza in Bandera City Park is back on its feet and making strides to reenergize itself with some initial backing from Bandera City Council.

Council at its Thursday, Oct. 4, meeting agreed to let the Bandera Business Association use a popular section of city park near the Highway 173 bridge for the lighting program this Christmas during the weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s but stopped short of approving any funds for the celebration, which was severely cut back last year because of funding concerns.

Still, the mood of council was clearly in favor of seeing the popular holiday lights trail return this year in a more festive way than last year.

“I’m really happy that it’s coming back to the park,” said Councilwoman Rebeca Gibson, who made the motion that the BBA be allowed to use Section A in city park this year. “I don’t want to micromanage it.”

Mayor Suzanne Schauman called a planned return of the park lighting celebration “a great idea.”

Councilwoman Lynn Palmer, who is a member of the business association, is not certain how large the revamped light show will be but plans to support the association’s initiative and to provide a degree of financial assistance if needed.

“I am supportive of bringing it back,” said Palmer.  “I think there was a lot of disappointment in the city and the county that the show would not be there last year.”

Business Association President Julie Conrad said even though the city did not offer any concrete funding or assistance for the lighting program last week, the agreement council approved was a first step toward getting the festivities back to health.

“I don’t know of anyone who does not want it,” said Conrad.  “We’ll make it happen the best we can.”

She said with the city’s financial backing up in the air, she hopes to pull together a meeting of community supporters to see if sponsorship revenue can be generated for the event and what other assistance might be available to help put up and take down the light displays and to assist with other components of the light show.

“We have some money for the Christmas lights, but we don’t want to go broke,” said Conrad. “We need a lot of people.  It’s a lot of details.”

She said she will start developing a plan for what kind of light displays will go into the park, how the traffic will move through the park, when the viewing hours will be, what nonprofit organizations will be called in to solicit donations from the visitors taking in the light show and other details of the event.

“I think it will come together, and it will be beautiful,” said Conrad.

Last year, a few Christmas lights were set up in the north end of the park near the flagpole after the BBA Christmas celebration lost $9,000 in 2016 and Conrad expected to see funding for the initiative fall in 2017.

Cindy Beckham, a Main Street business owner who is a member of the business association and sits on the board of the Bandera Economic Development Corp., said the absence of a lighted trail in the park “definitely was missed” by city residents and visitors.

“To me and to others, that’s an important part of the Christmas experience,” said Beckham.

She said she hopes to work with the association and other businesses in Bandera to put together an efficient park lighting program that won’t require much funding from the city.

The city has given the BBA $20,000 in hotel occupancy tax funds in past years to assist with the Christmas lighting and other programs it sponsors. 

This year, instead of getting the allocation automatically, the association will need to submit a request to council for the HOT funds along with a budget showing how they will be spent, and council will decide how much to allocate.

The mayor said officials will need to see what kind of light displays are available to the BBA and how much more money it will need to implement the light show before deciding what the next step should be.

But Schauman, like others, is ready to back some funding for the initiative and wants to see it light up the park again.

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