Boulevard Holiday Lighting

Washburn Winter Wonderland

If you saw the 5500 block of Washburn Ave S after the sun set last winter, you’ll remember the magical holiday lights stretching down the boulevards. We’ve got the details from Armatage neighbor, Jess Bell, on how her block hangs their lights, tips to help them last through the winter, and how the project got started!

Jess’s Light Hanging Tips:

  1. It’s important to hang lights out of reach to pedestrians and use a hanging material strong enough to sustain high wind and snow. Last year a couple of us chipped in to purchase 1000 feet of galvanized cable.
  2. Neighbors are responsible for providing their own strings of lights but help and supplies were provided to any neighbor who wanted to participate.
  3. Extension cords cannot run across sidewalks. We use trees in our yards to elevate and hide the cords.
  4. If there are significant gaps between the trees, we use 5 gallon plastic buckets with a 2×4 and sand or cement to weigh it down.
  5. On our block, people either run their own lights or take turns footing the bill between neighbors. There are no rules for when to turn them on and off.
  6. If the set up is done well, lights shouldn’t get damaged or need replacing.
  7. If you like the idea but not sure if your neighbors will jump on board, don’t let that deter you. Take a chance, you’ll be surprised by the response.

More from our interview with Jess in the October 2019 Armatage News:

What inspired you and how did the project come together?
When my husband Aaron and I lived in San Diego, a nearby neighborhood strung lights along their boulevards creating a magical experience and beautiful representation of community.
When we moved back to MN, I proposed the idea to our new neighbors. We came together on a Sunday afternoon in Nov to hang wire and lights between the trees along the boulevard. By the time the sun had set, both sides of the block were lined with lights.

What has been the impact?
We have a truly awesome group of neighbors here. The lights remind us of our community and connection during a time of year when we see less of one another. Walking down our street on a cold winter night certainly brings me joy and I’m not alone. People drive down our block because something as simple as stringing strands of lights along a boulevard transforms the block into something magical. It is a visual representation of our connection.

What advice would you give to other blocks?
Pick a date to gather neighbors and get cables and lights hung! Utilize peoples’ strengths. Each neighbor is responsible for providing and powering their own lights. There are no rules for when to turn them on and off. Don’t get hung up on the little details, it’s a process that will improve and work itself out over time. Also, if you try this year with minimal results, try again next year. Momentum will build, I promise.

Huge thanks to Jess Bell and the neighbors at 55th & Washburn! Photo credit: Matt Sepeta