Lamar lights keep tie to Christmases past

Photo by Samantha Lyles

Photo by Samantha Lyles

By Samantha Lyles, Staff Writer,

‘Tis the season to haul out those Christmas decorations and festoon every door and window, every rail and post, with the colors of the season – and with the advent of affordable LED lighting, operating those massive tangles of holiday lights is cheaper than ever. But one Darlington County town has stubbornly refused to hop on the Light Emitting Diode bandwagon and each year the Town of Lamar still puts up old-school colored incandescent lighting, criss-crossing Main Street with glowing rainbow hues.

Photo by Samantha Lyles

Photo by Samantha Lyles

“We are the only town in South Carolina that still puts Christmas lights across the street,” says Lamar Town Council member Willie Howell, the man whose job it is to oversee the maintenance, mounting, and storing of these seasonal relics that date back several decades.

“It’s been a tradition for quite a long time. It’s just something that the town wants to do every year,” says Howell.
Maintaining these lights has grown more costly as time passes. Suppliers of bulbs, sockets, and heavy gauge wire go out of business, are sold off, or move to other countries, making it tricky to track down needed parts for replacements and repairs.

“It is very expensive,” Howell says. “I would say that we normally spend between $2,000 and $2,500 each year to replace bulbs and parts. That’s not counting the man hours we use to put them up, take them down, put them away.”
Howell learned firsthand about Lamar’s attachment to these lights when he suggested at one Town Council meeting that perhaps it was time to retire the old decorations.

“(I suggested that) maybe we should just have the ornaments down the sides of the street, and man! Did I get some feedback in a hurry!” says Howell, laughing. “The majority felt like they still wanted to participate and put the lights up.”

One thing that has changed is Lamar’s municipal Christmas tree, the centerpiece of the town’s annual tree lighting ceremony held on Thanksgiving night. The Downtown Pride Committee (driven by founders Fran Knotts and Janie Howell) collected donations from Lamar merchants to fund a tree makeover. The new and improved tree, featuring dozens of lovely ornaments, was custom designed by Brooks Grooms and can be seen on Railroad Avenue in front of the Piggy Wiggly grocery store.

Photo by Samantha Lyles

Photo by Samantha Lyles

So if you should find yourself lacking in Christmas spirit, stop by Lamar one evening and cruise down Main Street under the glowing colored lights and maybe – just maybe – that little hit of nostalgia could give you the jump start you need.

Mobile users, please click link to view slideshow: Vintage Christmas Lights of Lamar, SC

Author: Jana Pye

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