Walla Walla's streets bedecked for holidays

City workers have festooned downtown light posts with garlands and star ornaments.

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Travis Chester, on ladder, was part of a crew of City of Walla Walla employees out on downtown streets bringing Christmas color with wrapped garland around lamp posts and hanging stars in the sky. According to Chester and work partner Kyle Clemens, 60 lamp posts were decorated for the coming holidays. This is first time for the lamp post decorations. November 19, 2010

WALLA WALLA -- New decorations installed on city light posts last week have transformed the picture-perfect downtown into something out of a Christmas carol.

The city sidewalks -- busy sidewalks -- are now dressed in holiday style.

City employees spent three hours last Friday hanging lighted garland and ornaments on 60 posts throughout the downtown core.

The decorations are another touch in a beautification overhaul that started last spring, said Walla Walla Parks and Recreation Director Jim Dumont.

What started with sidewalk and street sweeping, gum removal and fresh paint on city fixtures has grown to include a few finer touches, Dumont said. Last May city crews installed brackets on the freshly painted light poles, then hung decorative flower baskets to add to the ambiance in the commercial corridor.

A discovery in that process paved the way for the holiday decor that replaced the baskets last week, Dumont said. Workers hanging the baskets last spring realized the posts were constructed with dual outlets at the top.

"Finding the outlets made it possible for the decorations," Dumont said.

Consequently, the city coordinated with the Downtown Walla Walla Foundation to choose holiday decorations in September.

Then last Thursday employees gathered on North Main Street outside Backstage Bistro for a group training in hanging the decorations uniformly.

Six pairs of workers hung the red garland -- wrapped with white LED lights in eight turns around the pole from the base to the outlet. The 60 poles were dressed in three hours Friday morning, Dumont said. Lighted star ornaments were also hung on each bracket.

The $8,000 project was paid for through the city's restricted lodging tax revenues, which are dedicated to boosting the city's tourism efforts.

Though downtown and city officials have said the cleanup and decorations are not likely to draw tourists directly, the details are part of a warm and inviting landscape that may entice visitors, as well as local residents, to linger longer.

"Retailing is critical for the economic development of the Valley, and I am pleased with the city for taking the initiative to provide assistance to our retailers during the holiday season," said Downtown Walla Walla Foundation Executive Director Elio Agostini, in a prepared statement.

The beautification has included fresh paint on 112 light poles, 23 benches, 32 trash cans and 23 bike racks along Main Street between Fourth Avenue and Palouse Street and the side streets on that same stretch.

Vicki Hillhouse can be reached at vickihillhouse@wwub.com or 526-8321.

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