Christmas decorating contest to light up Ironton

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 3, 2004

Ironton residents can now earn a little green while beautifying the town with colorful holiday decorations.

The City of Ironton and the Ironton Business Association are partnering to bring to life the Christmas Pageantry of Lights, a citywide decorating contest. Residents can adorn their homes with festive lights and Christmas decorations for a chance to win recognition and prize money.

Residents and downtown businesses are also encouraged to participate in IBA's annual Adopt-a-Parking-Meter campaign by embellishing a meter for the occasion.

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"What we would like to do is celebrate the season of Christmas and encourage people to enter the contest if they would like," said Mayor John Elam.

Judging will begin the week of Dec. 13 with an awards ceremony to be held Monday, Dec. 20, at 4:30 p.m. in the Ironton City Center. A first, second and third place entry will be chosen from the outdoor home displays with the first place winner being awarded $500, second place $300 and third place $150, respectively.

Prizes will also be awarded in a separate ceremony for the Adopt-a-Parking-Meter contest. "Ironton Dollars" will be given to the winners of three categories: Best Decorated, Most Original and the Meter Maid Award for a meter deserving of recognition. The special currency can be "spent" at downtown businesses.

KDMC, Liebert Corporation, AEP, Lou's Style Shop, the Ironton Eagles and the Ironton Elks are sponsoring the contest. The groups have committed $1,300 so far.

Lions Club President Lou Pyles said her organization had been approached about donating but will have to vote on the matter at next week's business meeting before committing any funds.

This is the first year the city and IBA have partnered to bring the Christmas Pageantry of Lights to city residents, but it is the fourth year IBA has sponsored the parking meter decorations, former IBA president Mark Compston said.

Compston said he came up with parking meter idea after seeing a similar effort in Baltimore, where he served in the Army during the 80s. The city could not afford to repair its many potholes, so the mayor encouraged people living there to adopt a pothole and pay for it to be repaired. Their names were then spray-painted on the repaired pothole.

That effort came to Compston's mind long after returning home to Lawrence County.

"When I was driving downtown in Ironton during the holidays, I saw all the parking meters in town with bags over them," Compston said. "I had a flashback to what I had seen in Baltimore and I thought, 'Gee, wouldn't it be great if we could get people to adopt parking meters here like they adopted potholes in Baltimore.'"

Ironton used to cover its meters with bags during the holiday season so that motorists could avoid parking fees in the downtown area. But last year, about 50 to 60 of the city's approximately 300 parking meters were decorated, thanks to the adoption program.

"It just adds a little festive spirit to the downtown area," Compston said. "It also attracts people to the area. We've actually had people from as far away as Jackson and other surrounding areas to come and look at it."

IBA Vice President Richard Patrick said he hoped the contest would help to revive nostalgia for historic Ironton and create a renewed interest in the downtown area.

"We're trying to increase the profile for Ironton and stress the importance of local business," Patrick said. "It used to be pretty busy down here when I was a little boy. People used to come here to do all of their Christmas shoppingŠso we would like to see something that would encourage people to start coming back down here."

Parking meters must be decorated in good taste and make it clear to people they do not have to feed the meter. Decorations must not block the street or sidewalk.

To take part in the Christmas Pageantry of Lights, homeowners can fill out the entry form appearing on Page 2 of today's edition of The Ironton Tribune Those interested in adopting a parking meter can contact the IBA at 532-7363 or Compston at 1-800-562-8974 to make sure the meter they wish to decorate has not already been reserved.