Christmas Lights on the Square
For the past 17 years, the glow from the Fayetteville Square has marked the beginning of the Christmas season in Fayetteville. The display, made up of half a million lights, attracts more than 30,000 people to the square every year during the holiday season.
Byron Humphry, the Fayetteville Parks and Maintenance superintendent, said that the lights start going up during the first week of October.
“We usually light the display on the Saturday after Thanksgiving,” Humphry said. “It takes about six weeks to put all the lights up.”
This year the square was lit up for the first time on Saturday, November 19. The annual “Fayetteville Unites with Holiday Lights” parade, organized by students from the UA hospitality program, kicked off the celebration of the lighting of the square.
Local businesses and clubs were represented in the parade on floats and cars. Following the parade, Santa Claus made an appearance for pictures.
The display will stay up until December 31. People will come with their families, significant others or friends to see the lights. It has become a part of local holiday traditions.
Samantha Corral, a Fayetteville native, said that her family goes to the square every year on the night they light up the square.
“We always get hot chocolate while we wait for the parade,” Corral said. “Everyone cheers as the floats go by and at the end when Santa Claus comes. Afterwards my family and I would go and take pictures in the square.”
Corral said that after she began high school, she would mostly just go to the square with her friends.
“Now going to look at the Christmas lights on the square has become more of a tradition with my group of friends from Fayetteville,” Corral said. “A big group of us go every year after everyone comes home for Christmas break.”
Every night during the holiday season, there are vendors from the Farmers Market selling hot chocolate, caramel apples and other holiday treats. There are also camel rides, pony rides and carriage rides for a fee.
On certain nights during the holiday season, choirs, bands and other musical groups will come to perform in the square.
Last year, as a freshman, Maddy Ryan got to experience her first visit to the square during the holidays.
“A bunch of my friends were from Fayetteville, and they took me and my roommate to see the lights,” Ryan said. “My friends said they go every year. There were so many people there, and it was really cool to see one of the Fayetteville traditions.”
Humphry said that the tradition began in 1994. Since then, the city has budgeted $13,000 each year specifically for the light display.
The total cost of the lights, labor and equipment rental is more than $100,000. Advertising and promotions cover $30,000 of the cost and the rest of the money goes toward labor.
“It is based on what we already get paid,” Humphry explained, “But they factor that into the total cost of the lights anyway.”
Throughout the years of this Fayetteville tradition, the overall design of the light display has stayed basically the same.
“There have been minor changes,” Humphry said, “like some of the colors of the different trees and lights on the ground, but the design has stayed pretty much the same.”
The biggest change has been in the type of lights the city uses. Recently the city changed from incandescent lights to LED lights. Because the LED lights are more expensive, the city has not been able to have as many lights in the square to make up for the cost in past years.
“This year marks the first year we were able to get up the number of lights we had before the switch,” Humphrey said.
With the lights back to the normal level of extravagance, the display should be brighter than before and a great way to kick off the holiday season.