For most people, taking down holiday lights for a single-family home is a challenge. But how about removing the 1 million lights that make up Largo Central Park's annual display?
It's not quite the monumental task for city workers that you might think.
"Because of the cost of buying and storing decorations ourselves, we hire an outside contractor to bring them in,'' said Mike DePappa, assistant parks superintendent for Largo. "And by leasing, the contractor provides maintenance as well.''
Still, it isn't cheap. It cost $69,000 to put on the 2010 display — $10,000 less than 2009.
He said the city paid the outside contractor, Clark Sales Inc. of Tavarres, $47,000 to provide the large decorations, including the 26-foot Christmas tree in the center of the park and the 15-foot-long train with Santa Claus that greeted visitors.
That leaves about $22,000 worth of decor — minilights, laser lights, poinsettias, garland and electrical equipment — that the city bought and is responsible for taking down.
Rod Livernois, a tree trimmer for the city, helped coordinate a nine-member crew during the process of unwrapping the 35-acre park Monday morning.
As he worked, Livernois stressed the need to be practical when it comes to putting on such a massive display.
"The smaller lights, the twinkle lights, burn out or the squirrels eat through the wiring by the time we tear down, and it would be a waste of time to hang on to them for next year. So we do discard many lights,'' he said.
Workers rose 45 feet off the ground from a lift truck. Down came the twinkle lights from the palm, magnolia and maple trees. From the bigger oak trees, dozens of snowflakes were removed that had been glowing nightly since the beginning of December.
After Clark Sales has removed its 32 decorations and the city discards about 1,000 boxes of burned-out lights, workers will label and store 30 plastic bins at Highland Recreation Complex. The entire process takes about two weeks, DePappa said.
Once cleanup is complete, the inevitable postholiday question emerges: Are the time and money worth it?
DePappa thinks so.
"Acknowledging the fact that it costs money," he said, "sometimes we look at things in a different way, not from a money or time aspect, but from how thousands of people, many who cannot afford to decorate their own homes, got to come out and enjoy the decorations and music at Christmas.''
City Commissioner Curtis Holmes would like to see a lower city outlay, perhaps by finding sponsors to offset the cost.
"I have already been accused of removing all the joy from Largo," he said, "but I'm watching the pennies and we're spending people's money on this and not everyone celebrates Christmas.''