Thousands of light bulbs swoop like a pinwheel from the Monroe County Courthouse to the tops of storefronts in the downtown square.
The lights stay up year round, but during the holidays they brighten the square to become a symbol of Bloomington’s community spirit.
For Tyler Kay, manager of the Game Preserve, the lighting ceremony is crucial. No other holiday event attracts as many customers to his store for planning their shopping.
“A lot of people will get ideas during Canopy of Lights, then come back during the season,” Kay said.
While they are strung across the downtown area, the lights are not maintained by the city of Bloomington. Downtown Bloomington Inc., a nonprofit organization focused on revitalizing the downtown area, has planned the annual ceremony since 1985.
The organization’s initial goal was to promote the downtown area as businesses were leaving a few decades ago, said Talisha Coppock, director of Downtown Bloomington Inc. While the storefronts are now filled, Coppock said the lights and the annual ceremony are still important for keeping the downtown area active.
“I think it’s an everyday challenge to keep it vibrant and thriving,” Coppock said.
Downtown Bloomington Inc. partners with Cassady Electrical Contractors, Monroe County and CFC Properties to provide and install the lights.
About 5,000 incandescent light bulbs form the canopy, Coppock said. Downtown Bloomington Inc. considers switching to LEDs every year but has not been satisfied with the blue-white feel of the LEDs it has looked at. The cost of purchasing new bulbs has also been a concern.
“We want to keep all the light bulbs the same color, and the clear seems to work really well,” Coppock said.
Just a few of the current lights are LEDs, Coppock said.
According to the Home Depot website, a string of 25 C9 clear incandescent lights uses 175 watts of electricity, meaning the canopy could use about 35,000 watts.
LED lights are more energy efficient and cost-effective in the long run. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, widespread use of LED lights by 2027 could lessen the country’s electricity consumption by the equivalent of 44 large electric power plants annually, and it could save more than $30 billion.
A string of 100 LED dome lights at Home Depot uses just 9.6 watts of electricity.
IU transitioned the large candles on the side of the Indiana Memorial Union to LED lights earlier this year, according to a press release. The Facilities staff said it had wanted to make the change for years, but were hindered by cost and the lack of available red LEDs.
The canopy lights stay up, but not on, year-round to avoid the street closings and labor involved in installing them, Coppock said. She did not know how much the current bulbs cost.
Shawn Trendelman, service manager at Cassady Electrical Contractors, said the company spot replaces burned out light bulbs every year. This season, using a vehicle donated from MacAllister Rentals and the company’s bucket truck, a team of eight replaced 300 burned out lamps.
The lighting ceremony typically draws about 6,000 people each year, said Jim Murphy president of CFC Properties.
“It’s a wonderful way to kick off the season,” Murphy said.
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