Local Commentary

Editorial: Watch Night’s Success & Those Lights

Kudos to all involved – beginning and ending with the remarkable volunteer civic activist Barb Cram – for the enormous success that Watch Night was this New Year’s Eve! Despite the cold weather, the fact there was no precipitation or high winds made it doable to the thousands who poured through the many downtown venues over the course of the evening, and for hours into the New Year of 2015 with the added new event, the New Years after midnight buffet at the new Hilton Garden Inn.

A big contributor to the event’s success were the creative lights that were draped onto the trees in the first two blocks above the central Watch Night area. Let us make this clear: from our point of view and that of many we’ve heard from, the lights were a fantastic addition to the entire holiday season in Falls Church. Walking or driving under them created a very luminous and special effect, like being inside some remarkable cathedral somewhere.

This is not an attempt to suggest a religious context for this at all, it is just that the height of the lights, and their draping effect brought a different kind of emotional response from many under their canopy that was, and is, very cool. We are among those who feel the lights should not be taken down anytime soon, though if they were left up year-round, their special impact could be lost. But we could be persuaded on that.

Our tiny role in this came following the hiring of the City’s new arborist Kate Reich last summer. We were tipped off that she, unlike many of her predecessors in that job, did not feel that lights on trees during the holidays would have an adverse effect on the health of the trees. As one of a number of long-time advocates of such lights and other moves to boost public interest in the City’s retail district, we arranged to interview the new arborist with exactly that topic in mind. Her favorable response was reported under a page one News-Press headline to that effect last September.
So, the Chamber of Commerce weighed in quickly and when Phil Duncan on the City Council showed his support, his efforts to that end were also prominently reported in the News-Press, which spurred the City staff to act in time for the just-passed holidays. By the standard that things usually get done through the City Hall bureaucracy here, it was done at what seemed like the speed of light (or lights).

Voila! One could almost hear a celestial choir singing as Mayor David Tarter did a countdown to flipping a switch on the ground in an impromptu ceremony to turn on the lights for the first time. It was so Falls Church!

Hopefully, we’ve begun a new long-standing tradition. Some might try to revise how the lights look, but we for one are very happy with them just as they are.