Launching Luminaria was a huge undertaking. It involved obtaining city grant money to purchase the holiday lights, hiring Kelle McCarty of San Diego SociaLights to manage the lighting design, planning the Community Tree Lighting, holding a residential holiday lighting contest, and encouraging business owners to decorate their own storefronts.
It also entailed commissioning San Diego artist Todd Williams to design a tree they could reuse so that a tree did not have to be cut down every year.
A Different Kind of Tree
Williams has always been interested in trees as a subject for his art. Primarily a metal artist, he likes using industrial material to represent nature. He designed the metal tree sculpture at Alchemy Restaurant and also contributed a piece for the Urban Trees Project held by the Port of San Diego each year.
Through discussions with the SPGB committee, he learned it was important to them that the design reflect the unique urban culture of South Park and the people who live here. Also, since no trees would be sacrificed for a holiday tradition, the subject of recycled materials came up early in the conversation. "Everyone got excited when we talked about that," he said.
So Williams used wood from an old fence that had been torn down and scrap metal he had left over from a previous project. The only parts that aren't recycled are the bolts, screws and general hardware required to assemble the design. It took him three weeks to complete the project.
Crowds Spill into South Park
The tree debuted at South Park’s Tree Lighting ceremony, which the committee thought would be a rather small affair at Grape Street Square since they had no budget. They had a children's choir sing carols, The Big Kitchen served latkes, and they had a few speeches prepared.
When about 350 people showed up, including Councilman Todd Gloria and Assemblywoman (now Speaker of the Assembly) Toni Atkins, Grape Street Square quickly became packed, and the tiny P.A. system could barely project the celebratory speeches over the crowd. Clearly, the event – and the publicity via social media and press releases - was a success.
Article written by Bonnie Nicholls
Bonnie Nicholls blogs about South Park for the South Park Business Group and on her own blog, SouthParkScribe.com.