LET THERE BE LIGHT

More trees added to Depot Rotary Park’s annual radiant display
By: 
Joseph Bullington —
Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Enterprise photo by Nate Howard

Light-wrapped trees at Depot Rotary Park shine on a cold Tuesday night in downtown Livingston.

It’s a good thing for Ed O’Donnell that they don’t make ’em like they used to — Christmas lights, that is.

O’Donnell estimates he’s helped hang 5 miles of the things in Depot Rotary Park, and it’s enough work as it is without he and AJ Bowers, the arborist hired for the job, having to scour the strands up and down the 60-foot trees, Chevy Chase style, for a single dead bulb.

“I was really careful what kind of lights I picked,” said O’Donnell of the LED lights used in the display. “If one fails, it doesn’t affect the rest.”

O’Donnell, a member of the Holiday Lights Committee and a board member of the Livingston Depot Foundation, spearheaded the lighting of the park three years ago and has added more lights every year. This year, three more 60-foot trees are lit up, covering another 200 feet of the park — bringing the total display to about the size of two and a half football fields, he said.

The idea to light the park was born a few year ago when, O’Donnell remembers, “I was bellyaching that there wasn’t a lot of Christmas spirit exhibited by the community.”

His wife said, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if somebody put lights in the park?” So O’Donnell went out and raised the money and did it.

“I wanted to do something for the children of the town, because lights like that are so wonderful and I wanted to get the Christmas spirit back and give it to the children,” he said.

The problem is, that many lights don’t come cheap. O’Donnell estimates that, for labor and materials alone, each 60-foot tree costs between $3,000 and $5,000. For the work, the Holiday Lights Committee hires Bowers, a professional arborist who makes sure the lights don’t harm the trees.

“I’ve raised most of the money from local businesses,” O’Donnell explained.

Many local banks donate money, Midway Rentals gives them good deals on the lifts they use to hang the lights high in the trees, and Ace Hardware donated all the lights you see in the park, he said. Park Electric Cooperative has also done a couple trees, he said.

Some of the money raised helps pay the electricity bill and the Depot Foundation picks up the rest. The power bill comes to about $600 a month, according to Foundation Executive Director Laura Cota.

“But the city does nothing,” O’Donnell said. “Zero.”

“There’s been some amazing people in town who have donated money, but it would be wonderful if I could get the city involved,” he said. “We need all the help we can get.”

Donations can be sent to Holiday Lights Inc. at 124 S. Second St., Livingston, MT 59047.