Former mayor campaigns for brighter city

Standing beside a lamppost on Cherry Street decorated for the Christmas season are (from left) Steve Yoder, superintendent of Huntington Parks and Recreation for the City of Huntington; former Huntington Mayor Steve Updike; and current Mayor Brooks Fetters. They have launched a campaign to raise funds to pay for additional decorations for the downtown area.
Standing beside a lamppost on Cherry Street decorated for the Christmas season are (from left) Steve Yoder, superintendent of Huntington Parks and Recreation for the City of Huntington; former Huntington Mayor Steve Updike; and current Mayor Brooks Fetters. They have launched a campaign to raise funds to pay for additional decorations for the downtown area.

Local townies may have noticed that Huntington is a bit brighter, lighter, warmer and more welcoming this year with the arrival of Christmas decorations on 76 additional lampposts around town.

That’s the goal of former Huntington Mayor Steve Updike, who describes himself as “sentimental” when it comes to Christmastime, and wants to share the Christmas spirit with residents and visitors alike. Last year Updike seeded a lead gift of $150 to start a fund-raising campaign to add more decorations to the downtown area. Current Mayor Brooks Fetters caught the vision and they quickly raised $900 to add more decorated poles. This year they want to raise $1,500 to pay for the 76 lampposts, adding to the 70-some already clad in Christmas finery. Updike has again thrown in the first $150 toward the effort. So far about $600 has been raised.

“I’m glad the mayor is running with this project. I’m more of a sentimental Christmas guy; I like trees and lights and I get real flaky here when this gets going,” he says. “I’m a big sentimentalist when it comes to making your downtown look warm, like the mayor said. At least, it’s inviting to people driving through.”

With the gauntlet thrown down, the campaign is on to find more like-minded donors.

“In my Facebook page this year I said I’m donating another $150; would anybody want to match me,” Updike explains. “From that I had three people who said they would, for $150. Then we were hoping to raise more money. The more lights we get the better off we are … we’ve got to keep going with this.”

Garland and lights are now gracing the poles in new locations, including Washington, Market and Franklin streets. In addition, more lampposts have been decorated on Cherry, Warren and Park Drive as well as South Jefferson from the railroad tracks to Etna Avenue. But Updike wanted more posts south of Etna Avenue added as well.

“They always put them up downtown, and I always go to Bud’s in the morning and it looks so dreary on South Jefferson that I asked the mayor, what’s it going to take to get some lights down on those poles there,” he says. “Steve (Yoder) found more garland and we added (the decorations) all the way down South Jefferson Street.”

Yoder says he conducted a lengthy search to find the right weather-resistant garland that can be used year after year, and light strands that will hold up under Huntington’s sometimes brutal winter weather.

“We want to build on it and expand as we get new lampposts throughout the city. It’s kind of our goal,” he says. “Some of the garland that we use, up to from the ones that we always use from Park Drive down to the track, some of that is upwards of 20 years old.”

Fetters says the response was so good last year he hopes even more donors from residents and the business community will come forward and contribute this year to pay for the 76 new lamppost decorations.

“We’ve really wanted to make the downtown more inclusive and a destination that people enjoy,” he says. “The city is committed to putting lampposts to identify what we consider the vibe of downtown. So we’ve been working on that – the Updike administration started it, I continued it, we’ve expanded it and we’ve got a few more that we want to put in another phase of downtown lighting.”

Fetters has hand-delivered letters door-to-door to downtown businesses, seeking support for the project. If he can collect more than the $1,500 goal, he’ll use the extra money to add even more decorations to city lampposts next year.

For more information, contact Fetters at 388-4154 or Updike at 519-5252. They will be happy to stop by and pick up any contributions.