Lansdale residents Keith and Kristen Heffintrayer have a bright idea for in wintertime.
The couple proposed an event to the Lansdale Borough Economic Development Committee Monday night – Lights on White’s.
The concept: a Christmas light display located along the walking trail of White’s Road Park during the holiday season of 2012.
“Honestly, we were just tired of driving up to Allentown each year,” Keith said of the inspiration for the Lansdale event, referencing that city’s “Lights in the Parkway” annual event.
“Lansdale already has established holiday traditions, including the tree lighting at Railroad Plaza, the Santa House, the lights and decorations down Main and Broad, and the recently-added Lansdale Business Association’s Holiday Festival of Trees,” he said. “Along with the abundance of homes decorated each year, it’s clear that that residents of the borough enjoy Christmas displays.”
He said the streetscape project, branding initiative and other efforts make Lansdale a destination for others.
“It seemed like a fun way to anchor the holiday season,” he said.
Kristen said her innate creativity sparked an interest in making a masterpiece in Lansdale.
White’s Road Park was the perfect canvas due to its length and depth of its walking trail, she said. Plus, there’s plenty of parking.
“From there, I thought ‘Lights on White’s’ was a fun and catchy name that people would remember,” she said.
'There's Always a Reason to Come to Lansdale'
Obviously, the event would be a walking event; the 2/3-mile-long trail could be fitted with lights, decorations and holiday novelties.
On Monday night, Keith told the Economic Development Committee that the display could provide a unique and festive experience to borough residents and draw visitors from surrounding towns and boroughs.
He said they would like to see the community make the display their own by playing an active role in the display itself.
“We want people to have fun and see something unique during the holidays. Our proposal contains several ideas and suggestions for community involvement, and the greater the audience we serve, the better,” he said.
According to their proposal, that community involvement could include North Penn School District. Keith said students could create their own decorations for the display.
As a result, it broadens the community-driven nature of the event and generates visitors who would attend to see their children’s work on display.
Admittedly, the Heffintrayers are unfamiliar with the cost associated with such a display.
Their proposal suggests the borough could buy 100-count strands of lights at $1 a box, or buy energy-efficient LED lights at $7 to $10 for 100-count lights. The latter option, according to their proposal, would reduce the cost of electricity.
If the community provides their own lights, then that would greatly reduce the startup cost for the borough.
Their proposal states that a casual stroll through “Lights on White’s” could be up to 25 minutes long. What the value is of that time within the display, the proposal states, is up for discussion.
Keith proposed to the committee that businesses could sponsor portions of the display and receive a block to decorate, in exchange for a monetary contribution.
“From a government standpoint,” Keith said, “we view this project as a way for the borough to generate additional revenue streams, which they could possibly use for other events like , or help with the costs of 311 W. Main St.”
The Heffintrayers also promote the event as a way for volunteerism to flourish during the holidays. A staff of people, according to the proposal, would need to greet visitors and collect payment.
According to their proposal, this would be a great opportunity for local businesses to get the word out, in exchange for manning the entry and exit points.
By using volunteers, the borough can save money on the display and provide a platform for local organizations.
“We have a lot to offer the borough,” Kristen said. “When you look at things like Bike Night, the car show and everything else, this would fill the gap in events during the winter.”
The proposal also includes plans for music, food and drink: a local choir or Christmas music piped through speakers throughout the display (possibly a Saturday night choir series), and local coffee shops or sponsors providing free coffee and hot cocoa.
Kristen suggested a Toys for Tots drive along with the event.
The proposal also recommends potential tie-ins to the Santa House. If the borough relocates the Santa House from Railroad Plaza, then there would be decorations on Main and Broad, a tree lighting at Railroad Plaza and a winter wonderland at White’s Road Park.
“It can show everyone from other areas that there’s always a reason to come to Lansdale,” Kristen said.
'A Neat Idea That Deserves Investigation'
The Heffintrayers went into Monday night’s Economic Development Committee meeting knowing members of council were familiar with the idea and were already excited about it.
Keith, a regional contributor to Montgomery County Patch sites, including Montgomeryville-Lansdale, said he and his wife couldn’t have asked for a better outcome to the meeting.
“Overall, we received a tremendous amount of support,” he said.
Their next steps are to present the proposal to the parks and recreation committee in March, and meet with borough manager Timi Kirchner and utilities director Jake Ziegler to nail down specifics to make it happen.
Economic Development Committee chairwoman Mary Fuller said the proposal was a great idea.
“I do hope it is something that we can work out. I’ve invited Keith and Kristen to come to the parks and recreation committee meeting, so they can present their idea since we are talking about using White’s Road Park.”
Fuller said it’s unknown at this point whether the Heffintrayers would organize the event or if the borough would take it under its wing.
“We have offered as much support as we want, or as little support as we want them to get. They are really ready,” she said. “Kristen has offered her artistic talents and some of her friends, so they are willing to spearhead the project, if we need them to do that. We’ll determine that as we develop the project.”
Economic Development Committee Vice Chairman Richard Strahm said it was wonderful for the Heffintrayers to come forward with such a well thought-out plan.
“I wish more borough residents took an active interest in trying to make our town better,” he said. “It’s something I certainly never thought of myself. I think it’s a neat idea that deserves investigation.”
Keith said the event would be well received by the community – people across America love Christmas lights and the borough residents are no exception.
“As long as residents have a good time and we devise a plan where the borough doesn’t lose money, there’s really no reason it wouldn’t be well received,” he said. “Unless someone really hates Christmas.”