It’s that dreaded moment when you flip the switch to turn on the holiday lights and nothing happens.
A group of dedicated Rotary Club of Spokane Valley volunteers worked for a handful of hours in the biting cold Tuesday morning to get the Christmas tree in the University City parking lot ready for tonight’s Celebration of Lights.
With the help of two Avista trucks, outfitted with cherry pickers and operated by linemen, the Rotary volunteers put up 3,000 new lights connected by dozens of extension cords – a last-minute save made necessary because the 30-foot tree has developed a major wiring problem.
“It wears on the tree to be taken down and put up, and then to sit out in the elements,” said Mike Payson, of Rotary Club of Spokane Valley.
The tree wasn’t put up last year because it was hit by a car and badly damaged.
The wiring problem was discovered at a recent work party where Rotary volunteers exchanged burned-out light bulbs with new LED lights. The tree consists of a cone shaped metal structure into which individual branches with built in lights are screwed.
Rotary’s Steve Florance said all the branches lit up as they should when they were tested.
“But once we screwed them in place nothing worked,” Florance said.
That sent the group on to plan B: purchase strings of lights and hang them so the tree can be ready for tonight.
“We will do whatever we have to do to get the tree ready,” Payson said.
It was Spokane Valley’s first mayor, Mike DeVleming, who raised more than $14,000 to purchase the tree in 2003.
“The city didn’t spend any money on that tree at all,” DeVleming said.
He said the first Christmas tree lighting remains one of his favorite memories from his time as mayor.
“We were standing on a flatbed truck looking out over the parking lot and it was so full of people,” DeVleming said. “It was overwhelming how people pulled together and got everything going.”
DeVleming said he’s surprised the tree has lasted so long and he hopes a new one can be purchased.
“I really hope the community can get behind it,” DeVleming said.
The Rotary Club of Spokane Valley took over the event from the city seven or eight years ago.
Payson said the group will take a thorough look at the tree when this season is over.
“We will get an electrician involved and find out if we can repair it or if it needs to be replaced,” Payson said.
At the end of Tuesday morning’s work session, all the lights were working and Santa had confirmed his appearance.
“We may need a little Christmas pixie dust to make sure it all goes well,” said Florance, “but we are ready.”
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