Tom Merryman of Westbrook Public Services hangs lights by the River Walk Tuesday. He and other crew members have been working on the city’s holiday display for the past three weeks. They’ll be lit Nov. 24. Chance Viles / American Journal

Westbrook is more than doubling the number of lights in its holiday display this season, according to Public Services arborist Doug Eaton.

Eaton and his team will have installed more than 100,000 lights by the time they are lit on Thanksgiving Eve. That’s 50,000 more than last year, and, while the focus will still be on downtown, additional displays are being installed along the River Walk and every tree between the Riverbank Park gazebo and Main Street will be illuminated.

“We really wanted it to be more special this year. People will see a lot more movement, flashing and pulsing in the lights,” said Eaton, whose city department oversees street and sidewalk maintenance and residential waste management, among other responsibilities.

City Arborist Doug Eaton sets up a lighted reindeer Tuesday along the River Walk. Chance Viles / American Journal

A crew of three started setting up the lights a few weeks ago, Eaton said, adding that it’s a big job and bad weather can throw things off schedule.

The popular tradition got a financial boost lights this year, which allowed more bulbs to be purchased. Donations from the Westbrook Gorham Chamber of Commerce and the Cornelia Warren Community Association totaled $5,000, according to Suzanne Joyce, who serves on both boards.

Lights range from small LEDs to large, classic holiday bulbs. Some are formed into Westbrook’s “W” logo, while others are in the shape of reindeer and other iconic winter images.

The city has been lighting up downtown for the holidays since the 1970s, Eaton said, but the displays in recent years have been outstanding.

“You don’t have to celebrate the holidays to appreciate it, it’s beautiful,” he said. “Growing up here, I remember the lights and how they were before. I am very proud.”

Public Services employee Brian Leo said while Eaton is modest and says the team does all the work, the display wouldn’t happen without him.

“We call him Decoration Doug. It’s his vision and he’s out helping us put it together,” Leo said. “He is just jolly and enthusiastic, and we wouldn’t have it without him.”

Brian Leo prepares to take the bucket to the top of a tree. Chance Viles / American Journal

Eaton credits Leo and  Tom Merryman, and former employees Jose Martinez and Joe Lunt.

The lights will dazzle residents this year, Joyce said, which is especially important as the pandemic continues.

“It brings people downtown,” she said. “It was just a perfect time to do that because we are all really having a challenging, tough year with the pandemic and it couldn’t have come at a better time.”

Complementing the light display is the return of the annual Christmas Tree lighting at Riverbank Park Dec. 5, with events starting at 4:30 p.m.

“We will have the school band, and we are so looking forward to this, hot cocoa and treats. With not doing it last year, we are really excited,” Joyce said.

The 2020 light display last year had residents strolling through downtown, even on this particularly freezing night. File photo / American Journal

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