David Meth On Downtown Holiday Decorations: “Bah, Humbug!”

Longtime and very alert “06880” reader David Meth is feeling a bit Grinchy this holiday season. He writes:

Westport of the past had Christmas Spirit. Main Street was lit in colorful lights.

Now what remains are cold, impersonal tiny white beads strung across the street from the rooftops of the stores. They slice the street off from the spirit of Christmas, and greet the New Year with darkness and shadow.

This lifeless garrote that threatens to surgically eviscerate Main Street from heaven above is not even turned on to illuminate the plastic banner wishing whoever dares to look up a Happy Holiday.

The "Happy Holidays" banner, and barely visible zigzagging white lights are the only decorations on Main Street. (Photo/David Meth)

The “Happy Holiday Season” banner, and almost invisible zigzagging white lights are the only decorations on Main Street. (Photo/David Meth)

The town’s attitude is whispered in bold letters: We Don’t Care! Just Come Spend!

The horrible, isolating white thread of lights decorating the (impossible-to-call “Christmas”) tree in front of Town Hall is not only an embarrassment. It is an offense.

The tree in front of Town Hall. (Photo/David Meth)

The tree in front of Town Hall. (Photo/David Meth)

If it were not for the small, colorfully lit tree in front of the offices of  Millman and Aarons, there would be no color at all.

So who cares least: Town Hall or the Downtown Merchants Association? How much more do red, green and blue lights cost in electricity to add life to the graveyard called Main Street?


27 responses to “David Meth On Downtown Holiday Decorations: “Bah, Humbug!”

  1. Danielle Jackson

    I was also wondering where the lights were downtown. It’s so grim and so disappointing!

  2. Michael Calise

    folks – Its not Merry Christmas – Its Ha$$y Holi$ays

  3. I think the “(impossible-to-call “Christmas”) tree” looks kind of nice. Simple, elegant, a beacon in the night. But of course, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Lights or no lights I’d much prefer strolling down Main street shopping for gifts than a trudging through any of the well-lit nearby malls.

    The people of Whoville had a lesson for us all in how they reacted to the Grinch’s misdeeds. Perhaps we can give that some thought and “lighten” up. 😉

  4. Janice Beecher

    It certainly speaks to the ‘new’ Westport. I’ve been gone for almost 40 years (with some little sojourns with very short visits). But, I remember the ‘Christmas Walks’, when Main Street was closed off to traffic. All the merchants had goodies, some had grog and mulled wine and cider. There were horse-drawn carriages to carry people and everybody just walked and visited and enjoyed all the beautiful Christmas decorations on Main Street and Parker-Harding Plaza. It’s sad to see Westport become this cold unattractive place.

  5. Eric William Buchroeder 'SHS '70

    I will never forget my mother’s annual synopsis: “The tree lights’ reflection in the river is so beautiful. That’s the difference between Norwalk and Westport. Norwalk has all the junk decorating the streets, Westport has the tasteful, beautiful trees on both sides of the river.”

  6. I believe the diminished spectacle of lights down town have been in deference to certain religious preferences? It’s a shame really, they were so beautiful especially when it snowed!

    • Religious preferences have nothing to do with the fact that the corporate owned stores in Westport have no respect for the town’s holiday spirit. Just look at places like Ridgefield or New Canaan where there are still Mom & Pop stores mixed in with the corporates. Kudos to Mike Calise for calling out the greed and cheap side of the Merchants of Westport and their corporate Scrooges.

    • Christina, come on! What are you basing that on? I’m Jewish, I don’t celebrate Christmas, and I (and am sure many others who don’t celebrate Christmas) absolutely enjoy the beauty of the Christmas lighting display Al’s Angels set up on the Cribari Bridge and the adjacent property abutting the Mansion. In some ways you could even say it surpasses the spectacle of the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree because you become immersed in it as you drive through it. Kudos to Al and his organization.

      Is it perhaps possible the absence of lights downtown is somehow related to the situation that local organizations have complained about in terms of getting the major chain stores on Main Street to sponsor things the way the mom-and-pop merchants used to do years ago?

      Also, I know that last year Main Street definitely featured Christmas decorations with respect to the streetlight poles, which were wrapped with Christmas boughs. (And perhaps those boughs simply required less of an expense and commitment on the part of the big retail chains to set up.)

  7. Before I get too grumpy about the lights, I would like to thank the downtown merchants for hosting an absolutely lovely holiday party for everyone after the town tree lighting, complete with ice sculptures (sculpted at the party’s the kids could watch), lots of delicious (free) food and drink and a visit from Santa (who arrived via Westport fire engine). Of course more lights on Main Street would be great, but I did not want their efforts with the party to go unnoticed. Also, the westport historical society hosted two great holiday events this past weekend! Maybe not as much as in prior years, but there is holiday cheer to be found downtown!

  8. One thing I meant to add: a Main Street storefront window I truly miss is the model train display that Swezey Jeweler’s did each year at holiday time.

  9. Lots of good comments here, but does anyone have a definitive answer as to why the decorations on Main Street are so sparse this year? Who was in charge in the past? Who is now?

  10. Hmmm…Is it (partly because…)? We’ve chopped all of our Trees…. If He’s Grinch; I’m the Lorax!

    So, DMA, you Need BIGGER strings of lights across the street– see Partylights.com /medium stringer lights are what ya need! Made to withstand
    Wind/rain etc… Also see same at Bobby q’s

    And… Would be fantastic… ((Start))
    But… Ahhhh ….the trees

    On a Positive note: A Big Hurrah to Al’s Angels for the Fantastic Bridge! It’s… Magical! (Thank You)

    Betsy p Kahn

  11. Matthew Mandell

    Tonight, Tuesday, at 6:30pm at the corner of Main and Post rd, all 4 synagogues in town unite to celebrate Chanukah and light a giant menorah. Everyone should come down to help usher in the festival of lights.

    And let’s embrace what we have, not what we don’t. Not the season for that, especially in this world where life seems so cheap.

    • Oh Yeah of little faith. Main Street and it’s surrounding streets are going thru a major metamorphosis over the next two years. On top of the recently completed Levitt Pavillion and National Hall, both of which look great, the almost completed 180 post road east which turned out beautiful, construction has only just begun at Bedford Square and The Gunn house
      Save the Children is slated for redevelopment if approvals can be obtained and the westport library is close to beginning it’s major addition and renovation.

      Additionally the town is putting about to put $500,000 towards new lights and sidewalks downtown. The trees were just put back. Until the town completes the sidewalk project, we have no power to light the trees. The project includes running power to all trees which will allow for easy lighting next year. Last years zig zig did not go over well (although I loved it). It can be turned back on if people wanted the WDMA to do so. Last weekend they had a horse drawn sleigh running thru town and tonight in front of the old Y the Menorah is being lit for the first night of Chanukah.

      If we can all be alittle more patient and understand that the developers, WDMA and Chamber are doing all they can while this transition continues, I am confident everyone will be impressed with the finished projects and very proud of Downtown Westport.

      Happy Holidays.

      • Way to go David. Nothing like the truth andbthe facts.

        Tis the season for joy. Happy and healthy and safe holiday to all.

  12. James U. Stephens

    It’s not just the lights, or the decorations, it’s everything in the “downtown” area. The flower beds are a disgrace in the summer, the weeds are still to be seen everywhere, litter underneath bushes, paint peeling on fixtures, sidewalks crumbling, and on and on. What we need is a public works department that has a budget, plan, pride, and some good management to bring Westport up to an acceptable standard…….including “holiday” decorating. Everyone talks about these major downtown projects and how great they will be, how fantastic they will look……. but I don’t hold out too much hope if we can’t even look after what we have with some pride.

  13. Dave, point well taken. A lot of really positive stuff is in the pipeline.

    As to the matter of the maintenance of things in the public realm, you’re singing out of my hymnbook, James. And by the way, you can add our utterly trashed parks and vandalized vacant public buildings to the list. Of course it hardly helps that the town is now trying to exempt itself from the Village District regs.

  14. There have been dismal displays for the last two or three years, it’s as simple as that. And no one has really made a concerted effort to improve them. We should take a lesson from some of our neighbors, like Fairfield. Strolling through town now, you don’t know whether to say “Merry Christmas” or “Bah Humbug.” The latter comes more to mind however. Between the DMA , the Town leaders,and possibly the Chamber, your combined ratings are an F; you have all failed miserably in promoting not only the Holiday spirit but pretty much any spirit in town.

  15. I’ve never heard more complaints in my life from townspeople who should be celebrating their fortunate lives instead.
    Maybe Dan is right about my dislike of Westport present.

    Merry Christmas.

  16. I have fond memories of the train set in the jewelry store window and the “tree” at Gaults. Also loved seeing the little Christmas trees along the river and reflected in the water below. Like the big tree…that looks nice. Bring back the little tree too!

  17. It’s not just the lack of lights; it’s the lack of warmth emanating from the stores. There is hardly a wreath or any garland. The store windows themselves are lacking. I’m not asking for a Macy’s display, but for God’s Sake put up a wreath! I will say the Saugatuck area looks amazing. I understand that due to the massive development underway downtown, lights may not be possible (I too found last year’s retro zig zag underwhelming) but there is a coldness emanating from downtown that is odd. My hope is once the development is completed we get something more along the lines of the Saugatuck display.

  18. I just found out that many of out downtown stores did not help with the Staples Football banquet. It appears none of the chains participated.

    Ridiculous. If they want support from the town then they need to support the town.

    I personally wrote to Matt Mandell who I know will be helpful to get this to the attention ofntye store owners. Please join me in writing to either Matt (head of chamber of commerce) or directly to the stores.

    I believe if we don’t see more participation, then maybe a full week of avoiding these stores will get their attention. They rely on us to shop there, we should be able to rely on them to support the town.

    If anyone can explain their decision not to support the football team or other venues it would be helpful to understand. Seems very wrong and the consumer can easily get their attention to the problem.

  19. Sharon Paulsen

    So many good points made here on this topic, and it shows that Westporters care about the aesthetic, mood, vibe and overall quality of our town. This topic may come off as a “1st world problem, but there is nothing wrong with wanting to be surrounded by beauty and good cheer where one lives).

    I live in Trumbull now, but Westport is my hometown. Our town green light display is quite lovely, fun too see, and gets the holiday mood in gear.

    I agree with some comments here that downtown Westport has become strangely cold and unwelcoming, and not just during the holidays. The paltry light displays, lacking in creativity or enthusiasm, reflects that vibe. In a town born of creative, artistic and intelligent minds, it seems those qualities should be reflected in the physical surroundings.
    But alas, it’s just not there.
    My mother and I used to enjoy coming back to Westport any chance we could get, and enjoy the shopping-stroll through downtown (especially on Christmas Eve). But the last time we ventured in (which incidentally was in the summer), we were disappointed and jaded by the overall experience. We were treated with a strange disdain by many of the “kids” working in several of the stores. There was a decidedly off-putting attitude of “why should we help these shoppers”, and a sense of entitlement in the air. (To be fair, this only occurred in the chain stores, and was never my experience in the locally owned businesses, the very few that remain).
    This is not the Westport of my youth, and it’s sad to experience this new “no one cares” attitude, in all it’s forms.
    Needless to say, I do not plan any more shopping trips to Westport any time soon.

    Side note: white lights can be lovely during the holidays, especially if left up during the winter months to keep things pretty while we suffer January and February. But, the new LED lights are, in my opinion, unpleasant, and harsh in a clinical/institutional sort of way. They are not warm and welcoming, but rather create a dismal glow. I was never a fan, even though I know they are energy efficient and all that “green” garb. The colored LEDs are marginally better, but I still get unexplained headaches when I gaze at them.
    Oh well.

  20. David W– Thanks for taking the time to respond! I was looking for some answers, and you provided them.