Each year, hundreds of red bells, green trees, snowflakes and blue stars blaze through the Saint John uptown.
It’s a job that’s exponentially more difficult than installing the Christmas lights on your average home.
“There is a pile of work in this actually,” said Steven Tulk, an asset manager with Saint John Energy. “There is a lot of stuff people don’t even realize that goes into it.”
When each of the approximately 300 fixtures, with their more than 136,200 lights, come out of storage, they must be inspected for weather damage from the year before.
And just like the dreaded single dead bulb that kills a string of lights on a Christmas tree, one non-working light can ruin an entire fixture. And one fixture can have 500 lights.
“If there’s one part that doesn’t work, we’ve kind of got to redo the whole thing,” said Tulk.
Weathering and physical damage can also change the tint to an entire sting of lights, meaning one snowflake could look a lot dimmer than the rest on a street. Unacceptable, according to Tulk, who takes a lot of pride in the annual installation.
“We have to get out heat-guns and different splice gear and a whole bunch of things like that, to get it to match up,” he said.
Tulk was the sole caretaker of the lights for years.
“Back in the day, it was just myself to put in a pile of work,” said Tulk. “I used to take a couple of weeks to plug everything in and do some splicing.”
Now with the help of summer students and workers from Uptown Saint John and colleagues who volunteer their time, the task has got a lot lighter.
“Normally, we always have the Saint John parade going on, the Christmas parade, and it’s usually right after Remembrance Day, so we only have a couple of days,” Tulk said.
The 68th annual Saint John Santa Claus parade has been cancelled for the second year in a row because of COVID-19. But Saint John Sparkles, an annual holiday festival taking place outdoors this year because of COVID-19, is still going ahead on Dec. 3.
“Fire and ice is the theme,” said Nick Crozier operations manager of Saint John’s uptown. “So we’re going to have ice sculptures, we’re going to have fire bowls, we’re going to have live music, and it’s all around the uptown, not just one certain area.”
Despite the Herculean effort each year to install the Christmas light show and then take the lights down again, Tulk said it’s all worth it.
“We enjoy doing it, it puts a smile on everybody’s face this time of year for sure,” said Tulk.