Decorating a large outdoor public Christmas light display is a challenging yet wonderfully rewarding project to undertake. Budgets often allow for ample creativity and this is your opportunity to stop people in their tracks or attract new visitors to the space for the first time. A by-product of Christmas lights is that it also tends to drive unwanted visitors away from the area and reduce crime or vandalism.
Here are the top methods for achieving the look you’ve always wanted and getting the biggest bang for your buck:
1. Decorate a small area really well
As tempting as it is to light up everything, thinly lighting a large area can be extremely costly without a lot of added benefit. Instead, pick one or several important locations where you really want to drive traffic and light those areas very well. A perfect example is the Rockefeller tree in New York City. The city goes all-out on this single tree and it attracts people to celebrate there from all over the world. It becomes the “talk of the town”. So choose your “talk of the town”. This can be a tree, an interesting building with unique features to highlight, or a standalone lighted structure like a walk-through ornament.
2. Be unique (but don’t be tacky!)
People are generally attracted to unique, yet tasteful, decorating styles rarely seen. It could be an interesting colour combination, or something more interesting hanging within the tree than a standard string of lights. If there’s a certain brand guideline to be upheld, consider incorporating colours from your brand. We strongly suggest incorporating at least some white in the design such as warm-white or pure-white because this is always a crowd pleaser. However, adding one or two accent colours will make the display more memorable without requiring an abundance of lights (and associated cost). Check out our themed mini-lights as an example of attractive colour combinations.
3. Consider leaving the lights up year round to save costs
Christmas lights are built for seasonal use only and leaving them up year round significantly reduces their life, particularly if installed in trees. As trees grow and branches sway, the lights can become compromised by being stretched and subsequently allowing moisture to penetrate and corrode them. However, if the installation requires a lot of labour and lifts, the cost to replace the lights more frequently may be worthwhile. The maturity of the tree should also be considered because if it’s young, it will grow and stretch the string much more quickly. Retrofit bulbs (large bulbs that are replaceable) typically last longer than minilights, but the costs are higher. Big Star Lights introduced the Stretch String Minilights which can stretch from 20 feet to 25 feet long as the tree grows. If minilights are the product of choice and the lights are being installed with a branch wrap style, the Stretch String is a must if they will be left in year round. Not doing so can strangle and kill or scar the tree if the lights are left in for more than 2 years.
4. Provide an immersive experience
Create opportunities for people to literally surround themselves in lights. This can be a well lit plaza, or a standalone lighted sculpture that people can stand inside. You can build a collection of these aluminum structures over time and rotate through your city or street each year. Structures are custom made, therefore, orders have to be placed typically by May 1 of each year.
Immersive experiences are frequently photographed for social media and become an attraction that people will go out of their way to see. You don’t need a lot of them. You just need one really good one in most cases.
5. Plan ahead
When there’s creativity amongst multiple decision makers, there can be a lot of discussion and planning. There could also be additional planning if power is not available where you need it. If you plan early, however, anything is possible including custom features like lighted sculptures, custom colours or combinations, and other decor that may require fabrication. Avoiding the rush leading up to the season will also facilitate preferred scheduling of an installation so the public can maximize their enjoyment of the lights. Plus, ordering early in the year may afford you some out-of-season discounts!