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Generosity keeps park lit for holidays

Event now nine years running; volunteers do the job, ‘because we love it’

Two girls get into a tugging match during Saturday’s lighting ceremony at Pioneer Park in Grangeville.

Photo by David Rauzi
Two girls get into a tugging match during Saturday’s lighting ceremony at Pioneer Park in Grangeville.


Blue Christmas lights bathe the face of this young attendee of Saturday’s event at Pioneer Park.

— “The generosity of our community,” said Terra Hill, has provided for Pioneer Park Christmas lighting, allowing the public to “enjoy it in winter as well as summer.”

Hill is one of three event coordinators (including Cathy Wassmuth and Karen Ruklic), as part of Grangeville Horizons Recreation, who spoke to a large crowd that attended last Saturday’s ninth annual tree lighting ceremony. The Nov. 26 event included solo and choir Christmas music presentations, refreshments, and topped off with Santa Claus’ visit on the Grangeville Christmas Fire Truck.

The recreation committee started nine years ago with park lighting as its primary goal, one since met with underground infrastructure allowing trees along the park perimeter to be lit during the Thanksgiving to New Year season. Approximately 4,500 light strands (100 light count per strand) are used, distributed to about 30 trees, and on average the group will annually replace 20 to 30 percent of these due to age and wear.

Donations from individuals and businesses, and assistance from linemen crews from Avista and Idaho County Light and Power Cooperative, support the annual holiday display. The group works close with the city public works crew, Hill said, including Ernie Mager, who “does an excellent job getting the park ready, allowing us to get in there, he makes sure to block off the street, gets us ladders. He’s a key part of this, a trooper.”

This year’s event addition was a new sound system, with microphones and computers to enhance performances.

“It’s as much as we’re going to do,” Hill said, on tree lighting, though future plans include a lighted path through the park – like the City of Lewiston’s at its Locomotive Park Christmas display – and working with Grangeville Arts on a stage area to provide for musical presentations in both winter and summer.

“Grangeville Horizons is not just lighting,” she said. “We have other goals down the road to beautify the park and other things in the community, and we hope we can continue on year after year as long as the funds are there.”

Public response to the display keeps the recreation group energized with positive comments and on how it gets them into the spirit of the Christmas, according to Hill.

“Even after nine years, people are still supporting this. I’m humbled on how much the community likes it,” she said. For one person, whose mother is in the nursing home, “she can see it from her room. It means so much to her because she couldn’t get out to see it.” To accommodate early risers getting their coffee at The Hilltop, they extended the display timer to 7 a.m. “so people getting their coffee and going to work can see it.”

Coordinating the event is a three-woman effort with Ruklic’s work on signage and orchestrating the look of the lights across the park; Wassmuth handling the music and vocalists, as well as the banking end; and Hill getting the work crews together, coordinating the refreshments and doing all the supply ordering. The group works well together, and it gets easier every year. It’s a not-for-profit group who do the job, “because we love it.”

“It feels good,” Hill said, “the people in the community giving compliments and really enjoying it, and in bringing the spirit of the season to Grangeville.”


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