There was a time when Pandora LaCasse kept track of how many lights she used to create the colorful holiday displays that adorn several parks, buildings and streets in downtown Portland.

“Then I stopped,” LaCasse said. “It’s just too many to count.”

Furthermore, the Portland artist simply doesn’t have time, now that her outdoor lighting design business has become a year-round endeavor that stretches far beyond Portland.

LaCasse, who started creating her signature holiday displays for the Portland Downtown District more than a decade ago, has since designed similar installations for the L.L. Bean campus in Freeport and for other businesses in Kendall Square in Cambridge, Mass., and in Kentville, Nova Scotia.

She also has created year-round installations for homes in Cape Elizabeth, Yarmouth, Peaks Island, Great Diamond Island, Little Diamond Island and Austin, Texas.

LaCasse’s focus, however, remains on downtown Portland, where the Downtown District, several building owners and the Friends of Deering Oaks hire her each year to turn the city into a twinkling, enticing wonderland.

Strings of lights wrap tree trunks and ornament-shaped wire forms that drip from branches in Tommy’s Park, Longfellow Square, Congress Square and Deering Oaks.

Bubbles, bells and other forms appear to emerge from several buildings along Congress and Commerical streets and sprout from the ground in Boothby Square. The colors vary year to year and stray from the usual red and green. This year’s palette includes chartreuse, purple, fuchsia and gold.

“I see it as designing in the environment,” said LaCasse, a Skowhegan native. “Each spot is unique. We try to make the installations appear natural and a little magical.”

“We” is a small army of family members and friends who help LaCasse design, produce and install the light displays. Her husband, David, programs computers that control color changes. Her son Christopher helps design and fabricate wire forms that are wrapped with strings of lights. A nephew, Jesse, installs most of the displays, a process that can take several days and require the use of a bucket truck.

A single installation can cost as much as $50,000 for design and installation, LaCasse said. The Downtown District pays her $40,000 each year to decorate several spots in the Old Port and Arts District.

“We wanted a signature holiday presence in the downtown district that reflected the local arts community and showed support for the creative economy,” said Jan Beitzer, its executive director. “The light sculptures set us apart from any other city in America and evoke different feelings from people who see them.”

Over the years, LaCasse has met fans of her work who said they make a point to visit or shop in downtown Portland during the holidays because of her light displays. Some drive around to catch a glimpse of each installation. One person said her light displays highlighted the uniqueness of the city and encouraged him to move to Portland.

Pressed again to tally her work, LaCasse tried to take stock. Throughout the year, she stores hundreds of light forms in the basement of the Maine College of Art on Congress Street, where she formerly taught. The forms vary in size. Smaller ones hold about 210 lights. Larger ones have as many as 1,400 lights.

The trees around the pond at Deering Oaks, which she starts decorating Monday, hold 40 large forms. Boothby Square features 24 forms. The Maine College of Art has 20 forms. Thirty-seven forms adorn other buildings along Congress Street.

“I lose count,” LaCasse said.

Staff Writer Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6328 or at:

[email protected]