Let There be Light

Christ­mas pro­gram big­ger each year

The Sentinel-Record - HER - Hot Springs - - In The Issue - By Don Thomason,

It's been said that it takes a vil­lage to raise a child, but Hot Springs Parks and Trails Di­rec­tor Jean Wal­lace says it takes a com­mu­nity to put up a hol­i­day light­ing dis­play. With the Christ­mas sea­son fast ap­proach­ing, the Parks and Trails Depart­ment be­gan preparing its many dis­plays in Oc­to­ber in or­der to have ev­ery­thing in place by Nov. 23 when the switch will be thrown at the an­nual Chili Cook-off to light up the down­town area.

“The an­i­mated tree in Hill Wheat­ley Plaza may be the only thing left to in­stall, but by Nov. 20, we'll be com­pletely fin­ished with Ar­ling­ton Lawn,” Wal­lace said, re­fer­ring to the an­i­mated lighted trees that have graced the Hot Springs Na­tional Park property for a num­ber of years.

This year, the trees will be erected more to­ward the mid­dle of the lawn area where they will be more vis­i­ble from Cen­tral Av­enue, Wal­lace said.

“This year, we're go­ing to be retrofitting all of the Ar­ling­ton Lawn Christ­mas trees from in­can­des­cent bulbs to LED lights and we'll be mov­ing the dis­play fur­ther south to where it will be more in the mid­dle of the lawn. Be­ing on the north end was driven by the fact that was where the elec­tri­cal source is and we couldn't run the length of ex­ten­sion cords we needed from the north end. But with LED lights we can be­cause they draw so much less elec­tric­ity,” she said.

Wal­lace said the city is in the fourth year of a five-year hol­i­day light­ing dis­play im­prove­ment plan, which has pro­vided sev­eral new el­e­ments over the past few years, such as the large cas­cad­ing foun­tains in Hill Wheat­ley Plaza and at the in­ter­sec­tion of Cen­tral, Whit­ting­ton, and Park av­enues, the large an­i­mated tree that was added last year in Hill Wheat­ley Plaza, along with light spheres hung from trees in the plaza and in Adair Park.

“And we've added more lights to the park­ing garage, with more snow birds and wreaths. And we're adding more snow tubes which look like snow drip­ping from the trees in sev­eral ar­eas of Ex­change Street,” she said.

Wal­lace said the Ar­ling­ton Lawn dis­play takes most of the avail­able funds, but the Down­town Mer­chants As­so­ci­a­tion has do­nated $5,000 to the project each of the last four years, and Visit Hot Springs, as well as the city of Hot Springs, has do­nated $10,000 a year, as part of the five-year plan.

“There is a to­tal of $25,000 a year spread among those part­ners, but the city also bud­gets an­other $5,000 in the oper­a­tions bud­get for mis­cel­la­neous items like wire clips, ex­tra ex­ten­sion cords, and lit­tle odds and ends that we need,” she said.

Suzanne Tucker, owner of His­toric Dis­trict An­tiques, said the money do­nated by the Down­town Mer­chants As­so­ci­a­tion comes for the an­nual Chili Cook-off, which is the group's only fundraiser.

“This year will be lucky 13 for us and the cookoff will be held on Nov. 23 in the Ex­change Street Park­ing Plaza,” Tucker said.

In­di­vid­u­als or groups en­ter­ing the cook-off have to pre­pare at least 10 gal­lons of chili as their en­try fee, and the chili can be tra­di­tional or non­tra­di­tional.

“We en­cour­age com­peti­tors to com­pete in both ar­eas, and all the money raised is used for Christ­mas light­ing in the down­town area,” Tucker said.

She said the con­test last year was the best so far and all the chili was sold, along with all the beer.

“We ran out of ev­ery­thing. That's why we're ask­ing ev­ery­one to com­pete in both cat­e­gories. We usu­ally have room for 20 to 22 com­peti­tors, and they really have to make 10 gal­lons of chili. Some will en­ter both cat­e­gories, which we strongly en­cour­age,” she said.

“We did really well last year, but we could have done bet­ter if we'd had more chili and beer, but we ran out of both,” Tucker said.

Tucker said judg­ing of the chili will be­gin at 4 p.m. and the event will open to the pub­lic at 4:30 p.m. Chili will cost $5 per bowl, with wa­ter and soft drinks at $1 each. Beer will be $3, she said.

pho­tog­ra­phy by Mara Kuhn and 20 Richard Ras­mussen Hot SpringS on tHe go!

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